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Showing posts with label Archeology and Paleontology. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Archeology and Paleontology. Show all posts

Wednesday, 20 November 2019

More than 140 new Nazca geoglyphs have been discovered

In 1927, archaeologists discovered for the first time from the air stylized representations of humans, animals and objects of various sizes (between a few tens of meters and several kilometers) drawn in the soil of the Nazca desert in southern Peru. Called the Nazca Geoglyphs, the purpose in which they were traced by the Nazca civilization is still unknown. Recently, a team of archaeologists discovered 143 new geoglyphs, including one thanks to artificial intelligence . This discovery could help to better understand the functions of these representations.

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Scientists have discovered more than 140 new geoglyphs, known as Nazca Geoglyphs (or Nazca Lines): an ancient and mysterious group of giant characters engraved in the desert of southern Peru. These massive and sprawling representations of human beings, animals and objects can be as old as 2500 years old and so impressive that many of them can only be identified from the air.

Archaeologists at the Japanese University of Yamagata report that a long-term study conducted since 2004 has uncovered 143 previously unknown Nazca geoglyphs, including a figure who escaped human detection and discovered by artificial intelligence.

Humanoid geoglyph (about 10 meters long). Credits: Yamagata University

Geoglyphs with still unexplained objectives

The newly identified geoglyphs would have been created between at least 100 BCE and 300 EC. Although the purpose of these great motifs inspired by the ancient culture of Nazca remains controversial, the way they were made is known to archaeologists. " All these figures were created by removing the black stones that cover the earth, exposing the white sand underneath, " says the research team.

Geoglyph representing a bird (about 100 meters long). Credits: Yamagata University

Previous assumptions have suggested that the Nazca people have shaped the giant geoglyphs - some of which are hundreds of meters long - to be seen by deities in the sky or to serve astronomical purposes.

In the new research, led by anthropologist and archaeologist Masato Sakai, the team analyzed the high-resolution satellite imagery of the Nazca region, also conducted fieldwork and identified two main types of geoglyphs.

Two types of geoglyphs with potentially distinct functions

The oldest geoglyphs (100 AECs), called type B, are generally less than 50 meters, while the slightly more recent ones (100 and 300 EC), called type A, extend over 50 meters, with the largest geoglyph discovered by the team measuring more than 100 meters.

Researchers believe that type A geoglyphs, larger, often shaped like animals, were ritual places where people organized ceremonies involving the destruction of various pottery vases.

Geoglyph representing a two-headed serpent (about 30 meters long). Credits: Yamagata University

On the other hand, the smaller Type B patterns were located along trails and could have served as a relay to guide travelers - possibly to a larger Type A ritual space where people would gather. Some of these Type B designs are really tiny, the smallest of new discoveries measuring less than 5 meters, making it difficult to find this type of line.

The help of artificial intelligence in the discovery of geoglyphs

To this end, as part of a recent experimental collaboration that began in 2018 with IBM researchers, the team used a company-developed Deep Learning artificial intelligence that runs on a geospatial analysis system. called IBM PAIRS geoscope.

Humanoid geoglyph discovered by IBM's artificial intelligence (about 4 meters long). Credits: Yamagata University

The Learning Network - IBM Watson Machine Learning Accelerator (WMLA) - has screened huge volumes of images of drones and satellites to see if it can spot hidden marks related to the Nazca lines.

The system found a match: the faded outline of a small humanoid type B, resting on two feet. Although the symbolic meaning of this strange and ancient character is not yet clear, the researchers point out that the geoglyph was located near a path, which makes it perhaps one of the supposed beacons.


Sunday, 27 October 2019

Discovery of the oldest known pearl on an island in the Persian Gulf

Pearls are white or iridescent limestone structures made by some bivalve molluscs. They are the subject of an important trade in the field of luxury jewelry in modern society, but this trade could have roots much older than previously estimated. This is suggested by the discovery of an 8000-year-old pearl on a Neolithic site on Marawah Island, off Abu Dhabi, making it one of the oldest known pearls in the world.

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Archaeologists have discovered what they claim to be the world's oldest natural pearl on the island of Marawah, off the coast of Abu Dhabi. The pearl is dated 8000 years old and was formed during the Neolithic period - the last stage of the Stone Age. Nicknamed the "Pearl of Abu Dhabi", it is pale pink in color and is approximately 0.3 centimeters long. It was found in a layer located on a Neolithic site dating from between 5800 BC. and 5600 BC AD

Before the discovery of the pearl of Abu Dhabi, the oldest known pearl of the United Arab Emirates was found on a Neolithic site in Umm al-Quwain. Ancient pearls from the same period were also discovered in a neolithic cemetery near Djebel Buhais in the emirate of Sharjah. Carbon dating indicates that the pearl of Abu Dhabi is older than these two discoveries.

Abu Dhabi: an important pearl center in Neolithic times

" The presence of pearls on archaeological sites is proof that the pearl trade has existed since at least the Neolithic period, " said Abdulla Khalfan Al-Kaabi, director of the Archaeological Investigations Unit of the Department of Culture and Tourism. Abu Dhabi.

Found at a Neolithic site on the island of Marawah, the pearl testifies to the central pearling activity of the Abu Dhabi region. Credits: Abu Dhabi Department of Culture

Indeed, " if we look at historical sources, we find more than one indication that Abu Dhabi was considered one of the main pearl centers ." According to the statement, the pearls could have been worn as jewelry or exchanged for goods of other civilizations, such as ceramics of Mesopotamia.

This Neolithic site, composed of collapsed stone structures, was first discovered in 1992 and many artefacts have been found, including flint arrowheads, pearls and ceramics. Moreover, as this site is located on an island, many of the objects found, such as fish bones, turtles, dolphins, dugongs and oysters, relate to the sea.

" The inhabitants of this period knew the sea very well and considered it an essential part of everyday life, " explains Al-Kaabi. Even centuries later, pearl diving remained an important activity in the region and was an important engine of the economy of the United Arab Emirates until the 1930s.


Thursday, 24 October 2019

Cretaceous-Paleogene Extinction: The impact of an asteroid has been the main cause of extinction

66 million years ago, dinosaurs and many other species disappeared during mass extinction known as Cretaceous-Paleogene (K-Pg) extinction. The main hypothesis used to explain this event is the combination of intense volcanism and the impact of an asteroid. However, so far, there is no empirical evidence as to which of the two had contributed most to this extinction. But recently, a team of geologists has shown that the impact of the asteroid has caused a brutal acidification of the oceans with massive disruption of the carbon cycle, making this impact the main cause of K-Pg extinction.

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The fossil remains of tiny calcareous algae not only provide information about the end of the dinosaurs, but also show how the oceans have recovered from the impact of the asteroid. Experts agree that a collision with an asteroid has caused mass extinction on our planet, but some hypotheses have been made that ecosystems were already under pressure from increasing volcanism.

Our data shows a gradual deterioration of environmental conditions 66 million years ago, " says Michael Henehan of GFZ's German Geoscience Research Center. With colleagues from Yale University, he published in PNAS a study describing ocean acidification during this period.

Massive acidification of the oceans due to the impact of the asteroid
Henehan has studied boron isotopes in the calcareous shells of plankton (foraminifera). According to the findings, there was a sudden impact that led to massive acidification of the oceans. The oceans have taken millions of years to recover from this acidification. " Before the event, we could not detect any increasing acidification of the oceans, " explains Henehan.

The impact of a celestial body left traces: the Chicxulub crater in the Gulf of Mexico and tiny amounts of iridium in the sediments. Up to 75% of all animal species disappeared at the time. The impact marks the boundary of two geological epochs - the Cretaceous and the Paleogene (formerly known as the Cretaceous-Tertiary boundary).

The study of fossilized oceanic foraminifera (in color on the graph) revealed a rapid acidification of the oceans during the extinction K-Pg (red vertical line), caused by the impact of an asteroid. Credits: Michael J. Henehan et al. 2019

Henehan and his team at Yale University reconstructed environmental conditions in the oceans, using fossils from deep-sea drill cores and rocks formed at that time.

After the impact, the oceans became so acidic that the organisms that made their calcium carbonate shell could no longer survive. As a result, as life forms in the upper oceans have disappeared, carbon uptake by photosynthesis in the oceans has been reduced by half.

The collapse of the carbon cycle and the slow recovery of ecosystems

This state lasted several tens of thousands of years before the spread of calcareous algae. However, it took millions of years for the flora and fauna to recover and for the carbon cycle to reach a new equilibrium. The researchers found decisive data on this subject during an excursion to the Netherlands, where a particularly thick layer of rock from the Cretaceous-Paleogene boundary is conserved in a cave.

The Cretaceous-Paleogene geological boundary is clearly visible in this cave of Geulhemmerberg (Netherlands), where the samples of the study were taken. Credits: Michael Henehan

In this cave, a particularly thick layer of clay accumulated immediately after the impact, which is really quite rare, " says Henehan. In most cases, sediments accumulate so slowly that such a rapid event, such as an asteroid impact, is difficult to identify during rock analysis. " Because so much sediment was deposited at a time, we were able to extract enough fossils to analyze, which allowed us to isolate the transition.