Carved Skulls Flesh Out Neolithic Cult Evidence

By Gemma Tarlach | June 28, 2017 1:00 pm
A pillar from one of the buildings excavated at the Turkish Neolithic site of Göbekli Tepe, where newly-discovered carved skulls point to unique ritual treatment of the dead. (Credit German Archaeological Institute (DAI))

Birds and scorpions — and an apparently headless human (lower right) — adorn a pillar from one of the buildings excavated at the Neolithic site of Göbekli Tepe, where newly-discovered carved skulls point to unique ritual treatment of the dead. (Credit German Archaeological Institute (DAI))

Fragments of uniquely carved skulls — at least one of which may have also been decorated — have turned up at one of Turkey’s most important Neolithic sites. Investigation into how the skulls were modified, and what they might have been used for, points to a skull cult that’s the first of its kind in the world.
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CATEGORIZED UNDER: Living World, top posts
MORE ABOUT: archaeology, death

Ancient DNA Unravels Cat Domestication Like Ball of Yarn

By Gemma Tarlach | June 19, 2017 10:00 am
A new study fills in gaps in the when and where of cat domestication, explaining how the animals went from lean and vermin-chasing hunters to, uh, this. (Credit G. Tarlach)

A new study fills gaps in the when and where of cat domestication, explaining how the animals went from lean hunters to, uh, this. (Credit G. Tarlach…yes, it’s my cat, but don’t kvetch about his obesity. I took the photo shortly after I adopted him. Thanks to careful management he is now several pounds lighter.)

The truth about cats and dogs is this: despite being the two species that humans are most likely to have as pets, Rex and Ruffles had very different paths from the wild to our couches. Analyzing ancient and modern cat DNA, researchers believe they have figured out much of the mystery surrounding cat domestication — and no, it didn’t start in ancient Egypt.
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CATEGORIZED UNDER: Living World, top posts

Meet The New Oldest Homo Sapiens — Our Species Evolved Much Earlier Than Thought

By Gemma Tarlach | June 7, 2017 12:00 pm
The earliest member of Homo sapiens was this guy. The composite image, based on micro-CT scans of fossils from a site in Morocco, shows that the modern human face had already evolved by 300,000 years ago. (Credit PhilippGunz, MPI EVA Leipzig)

One of the earliest known members of Homo sapiens was this guy. The composite image, based on micro-CT scans of fossils from a site in Morocco, shows that the modern human face had already evolved by 300,000 years ago, smashing conventional thinking about our evolutionary timeframe. (Credit PhilippGunz, MPI EVA Leipzig)

For decades, based on both the fossil record and, more recently, paleogenomic modeling, researchers have generally put the start date for Homo sapiens around 200,000 years ago. A trove of fossil and artefact finds from Morocco, however, pushes the age of our species back — way back. The new findings have implications far beyond how many candles to put on our collective birthday cake.

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CATEGORIZED UNDER: Living World, top posts

Just Say No To Feathered Tyrannosaurs

By Gemma Tarlach | June 6, 2017 6:00 pm
Feathered tyrannosaurs? No thank you. These dinosaurs didn't need no stinkin' feathers, and a new study backs me up. (Credit David Monniaux/Wikimedia Commons)

Feathered tyrannosaurs? No, thank you. These dinosaurs didn’t need no stinkin’ feathers, and a new study backs me up on that. (Credit David Monniaux/Wikimedia Commons)

It’s a good day here at Dead Things: A new study provides a nice big nail in the coffin of the notion that T. rex and its kin ran around all kitted out in feathers. Lovers of old-school, scaly dinosaur renderings, rejoice!

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CATEGORIZED UNDER: Living World, top posts

Meet Zuul Crurivastator: I Ain’t ‘Fraid Of No Ankylosaur

By Gemma Tarlach | May 9, 2017 6:00 pm
Okay, this is not an artist rendering of Zuul crurivastator, a new ankylosaurine from Montana...but it is it's Ghostbusters namesake. (Courtesy Columbia Pictures)

Okay, so this is not an artist rendering of Zuul crurivastator, a new ankylosaurine from Montana…but this Ghostbusters character did inspire its name. (Courtesy Columbia Pictures)

Don’t let the ferocious name of a new armored dinosaur found in Montana fool you: Zuul crurivastator (the new genus is a nod to the main Ghostbusters villain) is actually quite the softie. At least in terms of soft tissue. The wonderfully preserved specimen has loads of it, opening up a lot of possibilities for further research.
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CATEGORIZED UNDER: Living World, top posts

Galeamopus Pabsti: A New Whip It Good Dinosaur

By Gemma Tarlach | May 2, 2017 6:00 am
Nice piece of tail: Galeamopus pabsti, the newest sauropod dinosaur in the books. (Credit Davide Bonadonna)

Nice piece of tail: Galeamopus pabsti, the newest sauropod dinosaur in the books. (Credit Davide Bonadonna)

The latest big’un of the dinosaur world, Galeamopus pabsti, makes its official debut to science today after hiding in plain sight.
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CATEGORIZED UNDER: Living World, top posts

Visit Prehistoric Scotland With A Couple Clicks

By Gemma Tarlach | April 28, 2017 11:52 am
Explore a pile of information, including reconstructions, maps and raw research, about prehistoric Scotland's hillforts in a new, open-access digital project.(Credit SERF Hillforts Project)

Explore a pile of information, including reconstructions, maps and raw research, about prehistoric Scotland’s hillforts in a new, open-access digital project. (Credit SERF Hillforts Project)

A recently released app featuring the latest research on prehistoric Scotland’s hillforts gets you close to the archaeological action with drone footage, 3D artifact renderings and plenty of other eye candy. Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Living World, top posts
MORE ABOUT: archaeology

The First Americans May Have Arrived 130,000 Years Ago

By Gemma Tarlach | April 26, 2017 12:00 pm
Mastodon ribs and vertebrae from a site in Southern California that may contain evidence that the First Americans were here more than 100,000 years ago. (Credit San Diego Natural History Museum)

Mastodon ribs and vertebrae from a site in southern California that may contain evidence that the First Americans were here more than 100,000 years ago. (Credit San Diego Natural History Museum)

Is the conventional chronology of human migration little more than a house of cards? Maybe. And there’s a strong wind (or at least a tantalizing breeze) blowing in from southern California, where researchers say they have evidence that the First Americans may have arrived on the continent almost ten times earlier than we thought. And here’s another kicker: the first humans in the Americas may not have been Homo sapiens.
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CATEGORIZED UNDER: Living World, top posts

Infamous Man-Eaters of Tsavo Ate Like Zoo Animals

By Gemma Tarlach | April 19, 2017 4:00 am
What's left of the notorious lion duo known as the Man-Eaters of Tsavo now resides at Chicago's Field Museum. (Credit John Weinstein, The Field Museum)

What’s left of the notorious lion duo known as the man-eaters of Tsavo now resides at Chicago’s Field Museum. (Credit John Weinstein, The Field Museum)

The man-eaters of Tsavo, two lions that killed railroad workers in Kenya more than a century ago, have inspired legends, movies and a lot of research papers trying to explain what drove the big cats to prey on humans (a rare menu choice for Panthera leo). A study out today finds that, in one crucial way, the infamous killers were a lot like — surprise — zoo animals. Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Living World, top posts
MORE ABOUT: Africa, mammals, teeth

Arr, Matey! This Sea Scorpion Be A ‘Primordial Swashbuckler,’ Yarr!

By Gemma Tarlach | April 18, 2017 12:00 pm
Our distant relative Slimonia acuminata made fast work of its prey with a saber-like spine at the end of its tail. (Credit Nathan Rogers)

Sea scorpion Slimonia acuminata made fast work of its prey with a saber-like spine. (Credit Nathan E. Rogers)

Be glad our species wasn’t around some 400 million years ago…we would have had to contend with giant sea scorpions, some more than 10 feet in length and capable of prowling about on land in search of a meal. And that’s not all: Researchers reveal that at least one of these Monsters of Deep Time had a particularly violent — and unusual — way of dispatching its prey.
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CATEGORIZED UNDER: Living World, top posts
MORE ABOUT: eurypterids, Silurian
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