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Veverka's Blog for Heritage Interpreters

My September-October issue of InterpNEWS will feature
tons of articles on "Ancient Aliens". It will be out in about
two weeks - the turth is out there...

Coming to you to fill up your imagination. Happy to send you a copy. Just send me your e-mail (

5 August 2022 - Hi and welcome to my first August 2022 blog. Got a lot going for August- new courses and working on new textbooks. I have a new resource IN on Killer Heat available now too. Here's some of what's going on for the next few weeks.

Updated cimate courses for August 2022.

Interpreting the Climate Crisis - 2022
Interpretive Planning for Programs, Exhibits, Panels and Related Services To Help You to Interpret Climate Change and Global Warming Issues to Your Audiences, Communities and Regions.
13 Units, 4 CEU's $250.00. Our Climate Change special resource issues will be included.
Interpretive Planning for Climate Change (

Visit my new new Climate Crisis/interpretation Resource Center:


Here's a special InterpSHARE for September - sponsored by
Northern States Conservation Center

MS 268: Creating Interpretive Gallery Tours
September 6 to October 3, 2022
Instructor: John Veverka


There is more to a guided tour than information – you also need inspiration. This course will help curators teach and coach their docents and volunteers to create interpretive stories and experiences that will help make their presentations “come to life” for their visitors.

This training course will help curators help prepare their docents for tours that:

1. Have an interpretive theme.
2. Have accomplishable objectives.
3. Has about 7 tour stops, each of which illustrate the main interpretive theme.
4. Use interpretive communications structure for each stop (provoke, relate and reveal).
5. Use the techniques of tangibles and intangibles in their presentation.
6. Encourage the use of multiple senses to relate to visitors.
7. Have a provocative introduction and then ending conclusion summary for the tour.
8. Have as much "inspiration" as "information".
9. Leave the visitors asking for more (when's your next tour?).

For more information:

Peggy Schaller
Northern States Conservation Center


InterpNEWS coming for Sep/Oct and Nov/Dec 2022

September/October 2022 In search of ancient aliens (left) and for November/Decenber Rising Sea Levels and Coastal Flooding (part of my climate interpretation resources).

January/February 2023 - the Legacy of the Buffalo Soldiers issue. March/April 2023 "Cowgirls and women who ruled the wild west" issue.


New Stories For InterpSHARE

Rat-tailed maggot - here we go...

The Rat-tailed maggot.

The rat-tailed maggot is cosmopolitan, occurring on every continent except Antarctica and ranges to the highest latitudes in the North (Metcalf 1913). It is absent in the extreme southern latitudes and in arid areas of Europe, Asia, and Africa (Thompson 1999). In the United States, it is found as far north as Alaska and south through California and Florida (Milne and Milne 1980).

Description (Back to Top)
Egg: The egg is white in color, has an elongate shape, and is covered in a sticky substance (Milne and Milne 1980).

Larva: The following information is from Metcalf (1913). The aquatic larva has a cylindrical shape with patches of horizontal folds dividing the body into segments, between which the cuticle is smooth. At the division of each body segment, two rows of flexible hairs are visible. The larva has a highly specialized organ on the posterior end (siphon) that acts as a respiratory appendage and also looks like a tail, thus giving them their nickname "rat-tailed maggot." The siphon can be several times the length of the body.

Pupa: The pupa looks very similar to the larva but is shorter and thicker (Gilbert 1986). However, unlike the larva the pupa has two pairs of cornua, or horn-like bumps, located on the thorax (Metcalf 1913). The siphon remains present in the pupa but generally locks in a curved position over the back (Metcalf 1913).

I've been told that the rat-tailed maggot is a great bait for fishing. jv


Ice age children frolicked in 'giant sloth puddles' 11,000 years ago, footprints reveal
By Laura Geggel published 10 days ago

"All kids like to play with muddy puddles."

An illustration of children from the last ice age splashing in puddles on a ground sloth trackway
in what is now New Mexico. (Image credit: Karen Carr/National Park Service)

More than 11,000 years ago, young children trekking with their families through what is now White Sands National Park in New Mexico discovered the stuff of childhood dreams: muddy puddles made from the footprints of a giant ground sloth.

Few things are more enticing to a youngster than a muddy puddle. The children — likely four in all — raced and splashed through the soppy sloth trackway, leaving their own footprints stamped in the playa — a dried up lake bed. Those footprints were preserved over millennia, leaving evidence of this prehistoric caper, new research finds.

The finding shows that children living in North America during the Pleistocene epoch (2.6 million to 11,700 years ago) liked a good splash. "All kids like to play with muddy puddles, which is essentially what it is," Matthew Bennett, a professor of environmental and geographical sciences at Bournemouth University in the U.K. who is studying the trackway, told Live Science.

Bennett has traveled to White Sands more than a dozen times in the past five years, locating and analyzing footprints left by ice age humans and megafauna (animals heavier than 99 pounds, or 45 kilograms). He and his colleagues have already made a number of remarkable finds, including human footprints dating to between 21,000 and 23,000 years ago, which are the earliest 'unequivocal evidence' of people in the Americas.

The discovery of the children's and sloth's muddy prints haven't been published in a peer-reviewed journal, but Bennett plans to write about them in the coming months as a methods paper, to help scientists who are studying similar trackways determine how many people were present and how old those individuals were when they created the tracks. For instance, the tracks that Bennett analyzed aren't an accurate representation of the children's feet, as the squishy mud distorted each print, but Bennett was able to compare the preserved, smeary footprints with modern growth data to deduce the children's ages.

He found that there were more than 30 footprints crisscrossing the sloth trackway, likely from children between the ages of 5 and 8 years old, Bennett said.

A digitally created image showing a section of the trackway left by the ground sloth. The ground sloth's print likely filled with water and soon became trampled by ice age children, who left their own footprints at the site. (Image credit: David Bustos;Matthew Bennett)

The now-extinct giant ground sloth, possibly Nothrotheriops, left its trackway after walking through the area on all fours. Each sloth print is actually a double print, Bennet said. "As it puts its forepaws down, the rear paw comes and steps on it," he explained. This combination of front and back paw gives the prints a kidney shape.

Each of the giant ground sloth footprints measures nearly 16 inches (40 centimeters) long, and the beast would have been anywhere from the size of a cow to as big as a bear, Bennet said. The footprints are shallow, about 1.2 inches (3 cm) deep, but it seems that was deep enough for them to fill with water and intrigue the children.


Why does the Rosetta Stone have 3 kinds of writing?
By Charles Q. Choi published 11 days ago

Two of the texts are different scripts for the same language.

The Rosetta Stone is one of the most important objects in history. (Image credit: via Getty Images)
The famous Rosetta Stone is a black granite slab inscribed with three ancient texts — two Egyptian and one Greek. It ultimately helped researchers decipher ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics, whose meaning had eluded historians for centuries. But why did ancient scribes include three different kinds of writing, or scripts, on this iconic stone in the first place?

The reason the stone has a trio of scripts ultimately stems from the legacy of one of Alexander the Great's generals. The Greek text on the stone is linked with Egypt's Ptolemaic dynasty, founded by Ptolemy I Soter, a Greek-speaking Macedonian general of Alexander’s. Alexander conquered Egypt in 332 B.C., and Ptolomy I Soter seized control of the country nine years later following Alexander's death. (Cleopatra, who died in 30 B.C., was the last active ruler of the Ptolemaic line.)

The stone isn't associated with Ptolemy I Soter, but with his descendant Ptolemy V Epiphanes, whose priests had the inscribed message composed in three different scripts that each played important social roles during the Ptolemaic dynasty.

A French military expedition that was part of Napoleon's invasion of Egypt unearthed the Rosetta Stone in 1799 during construction of a fort at the town of Rashid, according to the British Museum(opens in new tab) in London. Rosetta is the French name for Rashid, according to Oxford University Press(opens in new tab).

The stone isn't complete, however; it's a broken part of a larger slab. But even though it's missing a big chunk of the hieroglyphs from its long-lost top section, the stone has the same message carved into it in three different kinds of writing — ancient Greek; Egyptian hieroglyphs; and Egyptian demotic script — a cursive script that Egyptians used between the seventh century B.C. and the fifth century A.D., according to Britannica(opens in new tab).

Egyptian demotic script was used for "the contemporary language used in everyday speech as well as administrative documents," Foy Scalf, head of research archives and a research associate at the Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago, told Live Science. In contrast, "the grammar of the hieroglyphic section imitates Middle Egyptian," the phase of the Egyptian language associated with Egypt's Middle Kingdom period, which spanned from about 2044 B.C. to 1650 B.C., he explained. "By the Ptolemaic period, Middle Egyptian was often used for very formal inscriptions, as Egyptian scribes considered it a classical version of their language whose imitation added authority to the text."

Ancient Greek grew to become widely used in ancient Egypt among the educated class during the Ptolemaic dynasty, and there were modern scholars who still understood it at the time of the Rosetta Stone's discovery. As such, the stone helped researchers decipher the Egyptian hieroglyphs and demotic script, which are two different scripts for one language, according to the American Research Center in Egypt(opens in new tab). (The use of hieroglyphics began to die out after the Romans took over Egypt in 30 B.C., with the last known Egyptian hieroglyphic writing appearing in the fourth century A.D., Britannica noted.)

The message on the Rosetta Stone was likely written by a council of priests in the Egyptian city of Memphis, an ancient capital about 15.5 miles (25 kilometers) south of Cairo, according to Britannica(opens in new tab). The priests carved the stone in 196 B.C., during the ninth year of the reign of Ptolemy V Epiphanes (lived from 210 B.C. to 180 B.C.), who inherited the throne at age 5 and was officially crowned at age 13. It celebrates his coronation as ruler of Egypt.


Sharks are older than the dinosaurs. What's the secret to their success?
By Conor Feehly

Sharks have lived on Earth for at least 450 million years.

Here we see a group of bull sharks at Beqa Lagoon in Fiji. (Image credit: Alastair
Pollock Photography via Getty Images)

Sharks are hardly newbies on our planet. As a group, they have existed for at least 450 million years(opens in new tab), surviving four of the "big five" mass extinctions, including the catastrophe that wiped out the nonavian dinosaurs 66 million years ago at the end of the Cretaceous period.

For context, that makes sharks older than dinosaurs, which emerged roughly 240 million years ago, and even trees, which evolved on Earth around 390 million years ago.

So how have sharks, as a group, survived this long? What are the secrets to their success?

One explanation could be that sharks are capable of modifying their physiology in response to environmental conditions, such as shrinking in size when temperatures increase. This capability enables species to quickly adapt to rapidly changing ecological niches.

Sharks are close relatives of skates, rays and chimeras, all of which belong to a group of fish known as the chondrichthyes, which are distinct in that most of their skeleton is made of cartilage rather than bone. Gene expression studies in skates have shown their adaptability when the waters they inhabit change several degrees in temperature. For example, a population of winter skate (Leucoraja ocellata) living in the southern Gulf of St. Lawrence in Canada was able to adapt to water temperatures increasing 18 degrees Fahrenheit (10 degrees Celsius) over a period of 7,000 years by "dramatically reducing its body size" by 45%, a 2016 study in the journal Royal Society Open Science(opens in new tab) found. In evolutionary terms, 7,000 years is a short amount of time, which led scientists to think the winter skates' rapid change in size was down to an epigenetic response, in which gene expression is altered due to environmental factors, rather than natural selection gradually selecting for smaller individuals.

Christopher Lowe, a professor of marine biology and director of the Shark Lab at California State University Long Beach, told Live Science that some sharks are unique in that they have very large genomes, which may contain genes that, while not being useful now, may have enabled them to tolerate past climatic conditions.

Additionally, several species of elasmobranchii, a subclass of the cartilaginous fish group that includes sharks, can move between freshwater and saltwater environments — a huge physiological challenge. The notoriously aggressive bull shark (Carcharhinus leucas) is one of the most well-known sharks that is capable of living in fresh and salt water environments(opens in new tab). This ability likely aided past shark species when global temperatures were changing and massive amounts of fresh water were entering the oceans due to melting ice caps.

This versatility likely underpins sharks longevity as a group, said Gavin Naylor, director of the Florida Program for Shark Research. For instance, sharks are found in different parts of the water column — living in deep oceans, shallow seas and even rivers — and can gobble up an array of food, including plankton, fish, crabs, seals and even whales, according to the Natural History Museum(opens in new tab) in London. Put another way, if one area or food source is threatened, sharks' diversity as a group means that while some species may experience hardship or even extinction, others will likely survive.

We usually think of sharks as being exclusively carnivorous, but we now know that they are more diverse eaters, according to a 2018 study in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B(opens in new tab). This adaptability when seeking a meal may have also allowed them to survive times of scarcity.

But while sharks have managed to avoid previous mass extinctions with their adaptability, they are currently facing an unprecedented challenge: human activity.


Strange, never-before-seen diamond crystal structure found inside
'Diablo canyon' meteorite
By JoAnna Wendel

Scientists found something unexpected inside a meteorite that hit Earth
50,000 years ago.

A Diablo Canyon meteorite fell to Earth around 50,000 years ago and was first discovered in 1891. New research suggests it contains never-before-seen diamond crystal structures. (Image credit: Terryfic3D/Getty)

While studying diamonds inside an ancient meteorite, scientists have found a strange, interwoven microscopic structure that has never been seen before.

The structure, an interlocking form of graphite and diamond, has unique properties that could one day be used to develop superfast charging or new types of electronics, researchers say.

The diamond structures were locked inside the Canyon Diablo meteorite, which slammed into Earth 50,000 years ago and was first discovered in Arizona in 1891. The diamonds in this meteorite aren't the kind most people are familiar with. Most known diamonds were formed around 90 miles (150 kilometers) beneath Earth's surface, where temperatures rise to more than 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit (1,093 degrees Celsius). The carbon atoms within these diamonds are arranged in cubic shapes.

By contrast, the diamonds inside the Canyon Diablo meteorite are known as lonsdaleite — named after British crystallographer Dame Kathleen Lonsdale, University College London's first female professor — and have a hexagonal crystal structure. These diamonds form only under extremely high pressures and temperatures. Although scientists have successfully made lonsdaleite in a lab — using gunpowder and compressed air to propel graphite disks 15,000 mph (24,100 km/h) at a wall — lonsdaleite is otherwise formed only when asteroids strike Earth at enormously high speeds.

While studying lonsdaleite in the meteorite, the researchers found something odd. Instead of the pure hexagonal structures they were expecting, the researchers found growths of another carbon-based material called graphene interlocking with the diamond. These growths are known as diaphites(opens in new tab), and inside the meteorite, they form in a particularly intriguing layered pattern. In between these layers are "stacking faults," which mean the layers don't line up perfectly, the researchers said in a statement(opens in new tab).

Finding diaphites in the meteoritic lonsdaleite suggests that this material can be found in other carbonaceous material, the scientists wrote in the study, which means it could be readily available to use as a resource. The finding also gives the researchers a better sense of the pressures and temperatures needed to create the structure.


Roman Coin Depicting Zodiac Symbol Discovered off Israel’s Coast
The rare bronze coin was minted during the reign of the Roman emperor Antoninus Pius

Brigit Katz

A nearly 2,000-year-old Roman coin, etched with a symbol of the zodiac, was fished from the waters around Haifa in northern Israel, reports the Agence France-Presse (AFP).

Archaeologists with the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) made the discovery while conducting an underwater archaeological survey. The bronze coin was minted in Alexandria, Egypt, during the reign of the Roman emperor Antoninus Pius, and it was found in “an exceptional state of preservation,” according to a statement from the Israeli prime minister’s office, per Google Translate.

One side of the coin features an image of Luna, the Roman goddess of the moon, and an image of the zodiac sign for Cancer; the other side depicts Antoninus Pius. The coin also bears the inscription “Year Eight,” indicating that it was produced during the eighth year of Pius’ rule, which spanned from 138 to 161 C.E.

This ancient relic belonged to a series of 13 coins, portraying the 12 signs of the zodiac and the complete zodiac wheel, per a statement from IAA. It is the first such coin that has been discovered off the coast of Israel.

Astrology, which originated in Mesopotamia circa the third millennium B.C.E., was deeply entrenched in Roman culture. Though sometimes viewed with suspicion and hostility by emperors, who understood that astrological predictions could be used to subvert their authority, astrology was a popular practice among all classes of Roman society.

“Astrology was only one of a wider number of divinatory practices in the empire,” writes Matthew Bunson in the Encyclopedia of the Roman Empire. “But for capturing the public interest and imagination, all paled alongside astrology.”



Tuesday, July 26, 2022

In today’s Rising Seas Week newsletter, we cover the problem with Venice’s flood barriers, the discovery of a huge ‘new’ fossil site, the pixel that expanded Canada, jaguars at the border … and the power of Yellowstone’s ‘supervolcano’. Happy international day of the mangrove!

More than seven decades ago, two researchers made extraordinary fossil finds from 260 million years ago in a three-acre patch of southern Brazil. But as the years passed, others could not retrace their location, and the cache that traced a prehistoric wetland was “lost.”

Until now.

Helped by a local resident, government officials, and universities, researchers have found the site, uncovering a fossil bonanza that includes at least six or seven plant species (pictured above), one species of mollusk, and two of fish. Some species might be new. “It’s beyond what I’ve ever seen,” paleontologist Felipe Pinheiro says. “There’s so much there, it would be impossible to collect them all.”


Tomb of ancient Egyptian mercenary commander found in Egypt
By Owen Jarus

The discovery includes the largest embalming cache ever found in Egypt.

This photo shows the tomb during excavations in Abusir, Egypt. (Image credit: Photo courtesy
Egyptian Ministry of Tourism & Antiquities)

Archaeologists in Egypt have discovered a 2,600-year-old tomb belonging to a man of high status: a "commander of foreign mercenaries" named "Wahibre-mery-Neith."

The tomb's embalming cache, found in 2021, includes more than 370 pottery storage jars containing materials used in the commander's mummification, making it the "largest embalming cache ever found in Egypt," a team of Egyptian and Czech researchers said in a statement(opens in new tab). The tomb is buried at Abusir (also spelled Abu ?ir), a few miles south of the giant necropolis at Saqqara.

Grave robbers stole Wahibre-mery-Neith's mummy in antiquity, but archaeologists located remains of his sarcophagus that have hieroglyphs inscribed on them. The glyphs give his identity and quote part of chapter 72 of the Book of the Dead that describes "the resurrection of the deceased and his departure to the afterlife," according to the statement.

In his role as commander of ancient Egypt's mercenary troops, Wahibre-mery-Neith would have "supervised and commanded mercenaries coming from the Aegean islands and Asia Minor," the statement said.

The commander lived during either the late 26th dynasty (circa 688 B.C. to 525 B.C.) or early 27th dynasty (525 B.C to 404 B.C.), according to the statement. While Egypt was independent during the 26th dynasty, the 27th dynasty saw the country be conquered and ruled by the Persians.

Despite the growing foreign influence, Wahibre-mery-Neith appears to be of 'local descent," according to his name and artifacts found in his tomb, Miroslav Bárta, the director of Czech excavations in Egypt, told Live Science in an email. Why he was buried with the largest known embalming cache from ancient Egypt is uncertain. "This is a difficult question and at this stage of analysis we don't know," Bárta said.

The commander was also buried with 402 faience (glazed ceramic) shabti figurines. The ancient Egyptians believe that shabtis worked for the deceased in the afterlife and they are commonly found in Egyptian tombs. The finds also include a heart scarab, an amulet and an ostracon (pottery shard) inscribed with more spells from the Book of the Dead.


Polar bears forced to dine on 'batteries and dirty nappies' as climate change pushes them inland
By Brandon Specktor

Polar bear sightings are increasing at Arctic landfills around the world.

As climate change diminishes Arctic sea ice, polar bears (Ursus maritimus) are being forced to ransack towns and garbage dumps in ever greater numbers, a new study in the journal Oryx finds.

While bears eating human garbage is not a new phenomenon, the frequency and severity of human-bear interactions in the Arctic are increasing steadily, the study authors wrote, with some encounters ending in polar bears being shot and killed.

"What we have seen is an increase in intensity (of encounters) and increased occurrences in places where polar bears don't normally occur," study co-author Geoff York, a researcher with Polar Bears International, told The Globe and Mail.

In the new study, the researchers described six case studies that showed above-average (and occasionally deadly) polar bear encounters with Arctic communities in the United States, Canada and Russia. In each town or community, the number of polar bear sightings has increased steadily over the past several years or decades, leading to some dicey situations.

In 2019 in Russia, for example, ravenous bears overran garbage dumps in two Arctic villages. The town of Belushya Guba (population roughly 2,000) reported a "mass invasion" of 52 polar bears beginning near the town's open landfill, with some of the bears later venturing further into town and attempting to access buildings. Meanwhile, in the village of Ryrkaypiy (population 600), 60 polar bears took over the town's garbage dump for several weeks.

In Arctic Canada, two polar bears were shot and killed — one in 2015 and one in 2016 — after venturing too close to human settlements, the study added.

It's likely that human-made climate change is at least partially responsible for the increase in human-polar bear interactions, the study authors wrote.

All six case study communities are located near coasts where sea ice forms in late autumn, which gives polar bears a platform from which to hunt prey like seals and walruses, according to the study. As warming temperatures diminish the available sea ice each year, bears may be forced to venture inland and seek alternate food sources from towns and landfills, the researchers wrote.

It doesn't matter that the nutritional value of human garbage is less than ideal — or that dumpster-diving bears may be ingesting everything from batteries to dirty diapers to ceramic containers coated with food, York told The Globe and Mail.

"Polar bears will come a long distance if they can smell food," York said. "If they can find a reliable source of calories, they will go to extraordinary measures to come back."

One solution to the problem is to replace open landfills with composters or incinerators to dispose of organic waste, thereby minimizing opportunities for polar bears to come into contact with humans, York added. However, even with landfills closed, polar bears will likely continue venturing into Arctic towns in search of food so long as sea ice diminishes. This challenge is just one more unforeseen consequence of climate change, and underscores the importance of taking meaningful global action.


560 million-year-old tentacled creature may be the animal
kingdom's first known predator
By Nicoletta Lanese published 9 days ago

The fossil was discovered in the U.K.

This bizarre creature existed prior to the Cambrian Explosion. (Image credit: Photograph: Simon Harris;
Artwork: Rhian Kendall; British Geological Survey UKRI 2021)

A bizarre, tentacled creature that lived in the deep ocean 560 million years ago resembled a goblet crammed full of wriggling fingers. It may be an ancient relative of modern jellyfish and the earliest known predator in the animal kingdom, analysis of a newly described fossil suggests.

More than a decade ago, scientists uncovered a fossil of the purported jellyfish relative in an outcrop of volcanic and sedimentary rocks called the Bradgate Formation in Leicestershire, England. Located in Charnwood Forest, the outcrop formed about 557 million to 562 million years ago, during the Ediacaran period (635 million to 541 million years ago).

This means that the newly identified fossil predates the Cambrian explosion, a 55-million-year episode in which life on Earth rapidly diversified. During the Cambrian period (541 million to 485.4 million years ago), many animal forms evolved, including arthropod ancestors of insects, spiders and crustaceans; clamlike and hard-shelled brachiopods; and chordates — creatures with a spinal nerve cord.

It's almost unheard of for Precambrian fossils to resemble forms seen in animals alive today, so the discovery of an Ediacaran animal resembling a jellyfish is exceptional, said Philip Donoghue, a professor of palaeobiology at the University of Bristol in England, who was not involved in the study. "They found an animal, a member of a modern group of animals, in the Precambrian, where they're classically not meant to be found," Donoghue told Live Science. (Although not involved in the new work, Donoghue was formerly the doctoral advisor to several authors on the paper.)


13th-century 'Mortar Wreck' is England's oldest-ever preserved sunken ship
By Tom Metcalfe published 8 days ago

Divers are racing to save the shipwreck from seafloor decay.

The "Mortar Wreck" in Poole Bay on the south coast of England has been recognized as the oldest nearly-intact shipwreck in the country, dating from the middle of the 13th century. (Image credit: Bournemouth University)

A medieval shipwreck, possibly doomed by bad weather and its heavy load of stone cargo, including mortars, cauldrons and gravestones, is now getting star treatment as maritime archaeologists begin efforts to preserve its remains off England's southern coast, amid revelations that it is the oldest nearly-intact shipwreck in the country.

A team led by dive-boat captain Trevor Small, who discovered the 13th-century cargo ship's wreck in 2019, and Tom Cousins, a diving and maritime archaeology officer at Bournemouth University in the U.K., started a new series of dives last week at the "Mortar Wreck" near the southern English seaport of Poole.

The wreck earned its name from the many "mortar" bowls, used for grinding and made of local stone, that the ship was carrying when it sank; more than 20 mortars of different sizes have now been found there, and it's likely there are many more.

Despite surviving the centuries, the remains of the Mortar Wreck now face a new obstacle. The shifting sands at the bottom of Poole Bay recently uncovered several parts of the wooden hull, which will likely deteriorate quickly now that they have been exposed to the water, Cousins told Live Science.

In response, the divers are "sandbagging" the exposed portions of the hull — that is, covering them with sandbags so that sand from the seafloor will accumulate over them and protect the wreck until maritime archaeologists can return to the site for a full excavation, he said.

The latest dives come as the British government has granted the wreck the highest level of official protections, according to the heritage agency Historic England(opens in new tab).

The agency noted that the Mortar Wreck is the oldest-known wreck in English waters where hull remains are visible. A few older wreck sites date from the Bronze Age (2500 B.C. to 700 B.C.) — such as at Salcombe in Devon, as BBC News reported(opens in new tab) — but their wooden hulls are rotted away and only items from their cargoes remain.


Sunken 17th-Century 'Pirate Ship' Discovered, Alongside Gunpowder-Packed Grenades
By Tom Metcalfe

The grenade consisted of a hollow iron shell filled with gunpowder, which would have been lit by a fuse
that passed through the shell. (Image credit: Robert Felce)

Ancient hand grenades and cannons from the wreck of a former pirate ship have been found along the coast of Cornwall in the U.K.

Divers spotted artifacts from the wreck of the Schiedam, which sank off the coast in 1684, after recent storms disturbed the sand that once covered them on the seafloor.

In addition, the two 17th-century hand grenades, each consisting of a hollow iron shell filled with gunpowder, were found nearby, after being washed ashore from the wreck.

Local historian Robert Felce found the second of the two hand grenades late November on a beach near the Schiedam shipwreck site at Dollar Cove, in the coastal Gunwalloe district of Cornwall's Lizard Peninsula.

Felce told Live Science that he often visited the beach, which is exposed to strong waves from the Atlantic, and where several artifacts have washed up over the years — he found a similar grenade on the same beach last year.

Both objects were heavily encrusted after lying on the seafloor for more than 300 years, and Felce said he at first thought the latest grenade was an ordinary rock until he slipped and dropped it, and it broke open, revealing the two halves of the metal weapon and the explosive powder inside.

Although the gunpowder in the grenade was damp and several centuries old, he reported the find to the local police, who called in bomb-disposal experts from the British Army to ensure that it was safe to handle.

Felce said that curtains in his quiet coastal village of Mullion were "twitching" when the bomb-disposal vehicle arrived at his house with flashing blue lights; and the army experts quickly made the grenade safe by scraping out the ancient gunpowder inside.

In 1683, Barbary pirates captured the Schiedam — a Dutch merchant ship — as a prize. Subsequently, Britain's Royal Navy seized the ship, using it to transport stores until it sank in a storm near Dollar Cove in April of 1684.


Mystery behind medieval 'bed burials' in UK possibly solved
By Jennifer Nalewicki

The burial rite is tied to the expansion of Christianity.

A bed burial found in Trossingen, Germany. (Image credit: © Historic England)

On rare occasions in medieval mainland Europe, the cream of the crop — those who were wealthy or noble — were sometimes buried as if they were going to sleep, interred on their beds in what is known as a bed burial. However, it was unclear how this practice spread to England. Now, new research reveals that bed burials gained traction in the seventh century A.D. along with the spread of Christianity and soon became a common burial rite for women.

After analyzing 72 bed burials across Europe, ranging from Slovakia to England, a researcher found that England's bed burials held only female remains. She concluded that the funerary practice in Europe occurred at a time when women were moving around more as Christian wives married non-Christian husbands, according to a new study published online June 13 in the journal Medieval Archeology(opens in new tab).

"Bed burials were something that was specifically imported by women who were moving around at that very specific point in time [across Europe]," said Emma Brownlee, the study's sole author and a research fellow in archaeology at Girton College and a fellow at the McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research, both of which are within the University of Cambridge in England. "As part of this conversion movement, men were moving, but not at the same extent as women, who were bringing these burial rites with them as they migrated [as missionaries], causing it to take on these associations of femininity and Christianity in England."

More than 70 bed burials were studied as part of this research, including beds found in Trossingen and Cologne Cathedral. (Image credit: © Historic England)

"At this point, Christianity [had vanished] as a religion," Brownlee told Live Science. "But in the seventh century, there's this push by the church on the continent to start reaching out and converting places that aren't Christian. Pope Gregory I pushes this idea of conversion and missionaries. One of the slightly less obvious ways that the church tried to convert people was by encouraging marriages between Christian women and non-Christian men."

She added, "So, you have this specific policy of Christian families trying to marry their daughters into the English elite, who were non-Christian at the time. The idea was that the wives acted as this converting influence on the families, and so women had this really key role to play through those marriages."

Brownlee mentioned one bed burial in particular as a point of reference: the Trumpington Bed Burial(opens in new tab), which archaeologists excavated in 2011 in Trumpington, a village in eastern England. Like other burials in the study, it dates to the seventh century and contains the remains of a young woman buried in a wooden bed affixed with iron brackets. The burial also contained several notable grave goods, including a knife, glass beads and an ornate gold cross studded with garnets. While not much is known about the woman's identity, the cross suggests that she was most likely Christian.


Miners just discovered the largest pink diamond in more than 300 years
By Brandon Specktor published 7 days ago

The diamond will likely become the most expensive gemstone ever sold.

The Lulo Rose is the largest pink diamond found in 300 years, and could become the
single most expensive gemstone ever sold. (Image credit: Lucapa Diamond Corp)

Miners in Angola have uncovered a massive pink diamond that may be the biggest gem of its kind found in the past 300 years.

The pink diamond is estimated to weigh 170 carats, making it just a smidge smaller than the 182-carat Daria-i-Noor diamond — the largest pink diamond in the world, which today is part of the Iranian National Jewels.

The new diamond has been nicknamed the "Lulo Rose," after the Lulo mine in northeastern Angola where it was found, according to a statement from the Lucapa Diamond Company, which owns Lulo and one other diamond mine in Angola. Since 2015, the Lulo mining project has uncovered 27 diamonds weighing more than 100 carats, including the largest diamond ever found in Angola: the 404-carat "4th February Stone," which sold for $16 million in 2016.

The Lulo Rose, the fifth-largest diamond found at Lulo,is expected to sell for an even higher price.

Pink diamonds are relatively rare, and scientists still aren't certain about the phenomenon that gives these stones their rosy hue. In 1999, miners in South Africa uncovered a rough 132-carat pink diamond that was later named The Pink Star. For nearly two years, experts slowly cut and ground the rock into a 59-carat jewel, and in 2013, The Pink Star sold for roughly $83 million at auction, becoming the single most expensive gemstone ever sold.

The Lulo Rose also will have to be cut down from its rough form, which could result in its weight dropping by up to half, according to the statement. But even if the Lulu Rose is reduced to 85 carats, the vivid pink stone looks primed to set a new sales record of its own.

Humans have been collecting and trading diamonds since 2500 B.C., Live Science previously reported. For millennia, their dazzling appearance and extreme rarity made them a sought-after status symbol that only the world's wealthiest could afford.


Over 60 million years ago, penguins abandoned flight for swimming. Here’s how.
By Stephanie Pappas published 6 days ago

A new genetic and fossil analysis of penguins reveals how they evolved.

Penguins are perhaps best known for being flightless birds whose wings help them "fly" through frigid Antarctic waters. But penguins lost their ability to fly and instead became streamlined swimmers some 60 million years ago, long before the Antarctic ice sheet formed — and researchers have now revealed how that happened.

A new study of penguin fossils and the genomes of current and recently extinct penguins identified an array of genetic adaptations the birds made to live an aquatic lifestyle; from vision that is sensitive to underwater blue tones to genes related to blood oxygenation, and even to changes in bone density. Together, the findings suggest that penguins as a group adapted to survive some serious environmental changes that unfolded over millions of years.

From flight to flightless
The oldest penguin fossils date to 62 million years ago, said study co-author Daniel Ksepka, a paleontologist at the Bruce Museum in Greenwich, Connecticut. By that time, penguins were already flightless, though they looked very different from modern penguins. They had longer legs and beaks, and their wings were still more winglike than flipperlike, Ksepka told Live Science.

"These early ones are probably evolving from a puffin-like animal that could still fly through the air," Ksepka said. (This flying ancestor hasn't yet been discovered in the fossil record, so it's not known precisely when penguins lost their aerial abilities.)

Over time, evolution created a "motley crew of interesting penguin characters," Ksepka said, from penguins with long spear-like bills to penguins with red feathers to birds that stood a foot or two taller than today's largest penguin species, the emperor, which measures about 3 feet 7 inches (1.1 meters) tall.

In the study, researchers evaluated fossil evidence alongside the genomes of all still-living penguins, and partial genomes for those that went extinct within the past few hundred years. The findings suggest that penguins originated near what is today New Zealand sometime before 60 million years ago, dispersed to South America and Antarctica, and then returned to New Zealand. Most species alive today diverged from each other in the last 2 million years or so, Ksepka said. During that period, Earth has gone through cycles of glacial and interglacial periods in which the polar ice expanded and retreated. Advancing ice pushed penguins northward, probably cutting some populations off from one another and enabling them to take their own evolutionary paths for about 100,000 years . By the time the ice retreated, the separated penguins had evolved into different species.

"It doesn’t affect all species equally, but it’s almost like someone is turning a crank to make more penguin species," Ksepka said.


Strange 'alien' holes discovered on the ocean floor
By Ben Turner

NOAA has asked the public for suggestions on what they could be

The holes appear as a closely aligned, regularly repeating pattern. Tiny piles of sediment
are piled around them. (Image credit: NOAA)

Explorers have discovered a series of mysterious, "perfectly aligned" holes punched into the seafloor roughly 1.6 miles (2.6 kilometers) beneath the ocean surface, and they have no idea who or what made them.

The strange holes were spotted by the crew of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's (NOAA) Okeanos Explorer vessel as they investigated the Mid-Atlantic Ridge — a mostly unexplored region of the seafloor that is part of the world's largest mountain range.

The holes form a straight line and appear at regularly repeating distances, and they are surrounded by tiny mounds of sediment. This isn't the first time that holes have been spotted in the area; two marine scientists from the U.S. National Marine Fisheries Service also spotted mysterious hollows in the ocean floor during a dive in 2004.

"These holes have been previously reported from the region, but their origin remains a mystery," the NOAA researchers wrote on Facebook. "While they look almost human made, the little piles of sediment around the holes make them seem like they were excavated by... something."

In 2004, scientists proposed that an organism living in or sifting through the seafloor's sediment made the holes, but because no one has seen such creatures make them, their exact origins are unknown. Public speculation under the NOAA post's Facebook page ranged widely — from cracks in the floor's surface made by escaping gas, to underwater human craft digging for treasure, to ants, aliens and even starfish doing cartwheels.

The unresolved mystery is reminiscent of an underwater "yellow brick road" to Atlantis that ocean explorers discovered on top of an underwater mountain near Hawaii in May. Scientists explained that discovery — they suspected that heating and cooling of the seafloor across multiple volcanic eruptions created the strange path.

What is creating the holes, on the other hand, may take a little longer to figure out. The researchers will continue to explore the region until September as part of the Voyage to the Ridge 2022 expedition, which aims to map out the region's coral reefs and sponge habitats alongside studying the region's hydrothermal vents and its fracture and rift zones. Maybe if they're lucky, they might just catch the hole-maker in the act.


'Walking sharks' caught on video, astound scientists
By Isobel Whitcomb

This unique ability allows these fish to hunt where other sharks can't survive.

The unusual front fins of epaulette sharks (Hemiscyllium ocellatum) help them do something no other shark species can
do: walk on land. (Image credit: iStock/Getty Images Plus)

On a remote outcropping at nightfall on the coast of Papua New Guinea on May 3, 2022, scientists encountered something amazing: a walking shark. Using its fins to drag itself, the diminutive tan-and-black-speckled shark shimmied across a tide pool that contained barely enough water to skim its belly, moving like a lumbering sea lion as it dragged its body across the shore.

The creature was an epaulette shark (Hemiscyllium ocellatum), and it is unique among shark species in its ability to walk on land. Forrest Galante, a conservationist and biologist, recently shared rare footage of this unusual species in a new special for Discovery Channel's Shark Week called "Island of the Walking Sharks(opens in new tab)."

"This is the first time in history one of the Papuan species of epaulettes has been documented walking," Galante said on the show. "This is so incredible."

Scientists think epaulette sharks, a species found throughout the southern coast of New Guinea and the northern coast of Australia, evolved the ability to walk because it helped them forage for food in environments where other sharks couldn't survive.

"All traits are selected for when it allows [a species] to survive better and eke out an environment where they're safe and can get food," said Gavin Naylor, director of the Florida Program for Shark Research at the Florida Museum of Natural History in Gainesville. Epaulette sharks, which grow to about 3.3 feet (1 meter) in length, swim into shallow coral reefs to hunt for crabs and other invertebrates, their preferred food. When the tide goes out, they're perfectly happy hanging out in tide pools and munching on these creatures. "But once they're done, they're trapped," Naylor, who was not involved in the television special, told Live Science. "What epaulettes have learned to do is climb up in the reef and plop themselves in the next tide pool."

Epaulette sharks can haul themselves 100 feet (30 m) or more across dry land, Naylor said. And fin walking isn't the only adaptation that allows them to do so; this species can survive when oxygen is scarce, spending up to an hour on land on a single breath, Live Science previously reported. This ability also helps epaulettes thrive in the low-oxygen waters of tide pools.

Epaulette sharks likely evolved the ability to walk in the past 9 million years, scientists reported in a 2020 study published in the journal Marine & Freshwater Research(opens in new tab). That's incredibly fast for sharks; to put that into perspective, hammerhead sharks, one of the youngest shark groups, evolved about 45 million years ago, according to the Natural History Museum(opens in new tab) in London. And epaulette sharks are potentially forming new species at a remarkably fast rate, Naylor said. Because of the sharks' unique mobility, small populations frequently become isolated.


'Never seen anything like it': Impeccably preserved Jurassic fish fossils found on UK farm
By Jennifer Nalewicki

One 3D fossil resembled a singing animatronic fish toy.

The 3D fossil of a Jurassic fish known as a Pachycormus was one of more than 180 fossils found on a
farm in the UK. (Image credit: Courtesy Sally and Neville Hollingworth)

A farm in England was the unlikely source of a Jurassic jackpot: a treasure trove of 183 million-year-old fossils. On the outskirts of Gloucestershire in the Cotswolds, beneath soil that is currently trampled under the hooves of grazing cattle, researchers recently uncovered the fossilized remains of fish, giant marine reptiles called ichthyosaurs, squids, insects and other ancient animals dating to the early part of the Jurassic period (201.3 million to 145 million years ago).

Of the more than 180 fossils logged during the dig, one of the standout specimens was a three-dimensionally preserved fish head that belonged to Pachycormus, an extinct genus of ray-finned fishes. The fossil, which researchers found embedded in a hardened limestone nodule poking out of the clay, was exceptionally well preserved and contained soft tissues, including scales and an eye. The 3D nature of the pose of the specimen's head and body was such that the researchers couldn't compare it to any other previous find.

"The closest analogue we could think of was Big Mouth Billy Bass," said Neville Hollingworth, a field geologist with the University of Birmingham who discovered the site with his wife, Sally, a fossil preparator and the dig’s coordinator. "The eyeball and socket were well preserved. Usually, with fossils, they're lying flat. But in this case, it was preserved in more than one dimension, and it looks like the fish is leaping out of the rock," Hollingworth told Live Science.

A fish's scales and eyes were some of the soft tissues preserved for more than 180 million years.
(Image credit: Dean Lomax)

"I've never seen anything like it before," Sally Hollingworth added. "You could see the scales, skin, spine — even its eyeball is still there."

The sight astounded the Hollingworths so much that they contacted ThinkSee3D, a company that creates digital 3D models of fossils, to create an (opens in new tab)interactive 3D image(opens in new tab) of the fish to help bring it to life and to allow researchers to study it more closely.

Most of the fossils the Hollingworths and a team of scientists and specialists unearthed were located behind the farm's cowshed. (The farm is home to a herd of English longhorn — a British breed of beef cattle with long, curved horns — many of which kept a close eye on the excavation.)

"It was a bit unnerving digging when you're being watched by a herd of longhorn," Sally Hollingworth told Live Science.

At one time, this region of the United Kingdom was completely submerged by a shallow, tropical sea, and the sediments there likely helped preserve the fossils; Neville Hollingworth described the Jurassic beds as slightly horizontal, with layers of soft clays under a shell of harder limestone beds.

"When the fish died, they sank to the bottom of the seabed," said fossil marine reptile specialist Dean Lomax, a visiting scientist at the University of Manchester in the U.K. and a member of the excavation group. "As with other fossils, the minerals from the surrounding seabed continually replaced the original structure of the bones and teeth. In this case, the site shows that there was very little to no scavenging, so they must've been rapidly buried by the sediment. As soon as they hit the seabed, they were covered over and protected immediately."

During the four-day dig earlier this month, the eight-person team used a digger to excavate 262 feet (80 meters) across the farm's grassy banks, "pulling back layers to reveal a small slice of geological time," Neville Hollingworth said. A number of diverse specimens dated to the Toarcian age (a stage of the Jurassic that occurred between 183 million and 174 million years ago) and included belemnites (extinct squid-like cephalopods), ammonites (extinct shelled cephalopods), bivalves and snails, in addition to fish and other marine animals.

"It's important that we can compare these fossils with other Toarcian age fossil sites, not only in the U.K. but also across Europe and potentially sites in America," Lomax said. He pointed to Strawberry Bank Lagerstätte, an early Jurassic site in southern England, as one such example.

The group plans to continue studying the specimens and is working toward publishing the findings. Meanwhile, a selection of the fossils will be placed on display at the Museum in the Park in Stroud.


Jurassic insect wore eggs on its legs, fossils show
By Nicoletta Lanese published 9 days ago

The fossils were found in northeastern China.

A water bug from the Jurassic period carried its eggs on one leg until they hatched.
(Image credit: Courtesy of Diying Huang)

Insects that lived 160 million years ago wore clusters of eggs dangling off their legs, like grapes hanging from vines. Scientists recently discovered evidence of this parental behavior in remarkably well-preserved fossils that may be the earliest example of brood care — in which a parent protects their eggs or young offspring by carrying them — in an insect species.

Researchers excavated the insect fossils from the Haifanggou Formation, a fossil-filled rock deposit near the village of Daohugou in northeastern China. A wide variety of fossils have been recovered from the site in the past, including the preserved remains of feathered dinosaurs, ancient mammals, giant fleas and long-proboscid scorpionflies.

In a study published Wednesday (July 13) in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences(opens in new tab), researchers analyzed nearly 160 fossilized Karataviella popovi, an extinct species of water bug with oar-like hind legs. The fossils — which the study authors called "exceptional" — are 163.5 million years old, meaning they date to the middle of the Jurassic period (201.3 million to 145.5 million years ago).

Among these fossils, the team identified 30 adult female specimens with a cluster of eggs anchored to their left "mesotibia," the middle leg in their trio of left-side legs. The densely-packed eggs were arranged in five or six staggered rows, with six to seven eggs per row, each attached via a short "egg stalk." Each egg measures about 0.04 to 0.05 inches (1.14 to 1.20 millimeters) across — a fairly hefty size considering that K. popovi adults only measure roughly 0.5 inches (12.7 mm) long.

A cluster of eggs can be seen on one of the extended legs of this Karataviella
popovi specimen. (Image credit: Courtesy of Diying Huang)

K. popovi females likely laid the eggs directly onto their legs by first secreting a sticky mucus and then executing "specific bending movements of the abdomen" to expel the eggs onto the appropriate limb, the study authors hypothesized. "The unoccupied right mesotibia might have been used to maintain balance when swimming and feeding," they wrote in their report.

The water bugs' massive eggs likely contained an ample supply of nutrients for their offspring — but laying large eggs also comes with a cost, the authors noted. Large eggs are more difficult to aerate with oxygen than small eggs, due to their low surface area to volume ratio. It may be that, by carrying eggs on their legs and allowing the eggs to gently jiggle on their stalks, K. popovi maximized the flow of oxygen from the surrounding water to their developing offspring.

"To our knowledge, carrying a cluster of eggs on [one] leg is a unique strategy among insects, but is not unusual in aquatic arthropods," meaning crustaceans, the study authors wrote. "Our finding pushes back the evidence of definitive brooding behaviour in insects by almost 38 million years, which are helpful for understanding the evolution and adaptive significance of brood care in insects."


Amber tomb of 'dancing' wasp and delicate flower also hides a gruesome secret
By Mindy Weisberger published about 6 hours ago

A grisly fate may have been in store for a fly larva concealed in the bloom.

The parasitic wasp, Hambletonia dominicana, is known to prey on a variety of insects. (Image credit:
George Poinar Jr.)

A tiny flower that blossomed 30 million years ago still lingers today in near-perfect condition, preserved inside an airless amber tomb with only a wee wasp — also frozen in place — for company.

Finding this insect and bloom suspended close together offers clues about their relationship in the tropical ancient ecosystem that they once inhabited, according to a new study published June 16 in the journal Historical Biology(opens in new tab). The bloom belongs to a previously unknown flower species in an exceptionally rare group, and hidden inside one of its spherical seed pods was a secret stowaway: the developing larva of a minuscule fly, which may have been intended as a future meal for the wasp's young.

Study author George Poinar Jr., a researcher in the Department of Integrative Biology at Oregon State University's College of Science in Corvallis, Oregon, described the wasp in 2020. The insect was also an unknown species, and Poinar dubbed it Hambletonia dominicana; the species name references the Dominican Republic, where the amber was discovered, and the wee parasitic wasp belongs to a group that is known for preying on other insects, Poinar reported in 2020 in the journal Biosis: Biological Systems(opens in new tab).

For Poinar, the wasp's graceful form and the positions of its perfectly preserved legs made it almost appear to be "dancing," he said in a statement(opens in new tab).

Perhaps the wasp wasn't interested in the flower and simply wandered into the wrong place at the wrong time, ending up encased in sticky resin. However, another possibility is that the wasp became stuck near the flower because it was visiting the blossom, either to eat its pollen or for a more gruesome reason: to lay an egg on the plant's inhabited seed pod, so that the wasp hatchling could then burrow inside to devour the fly larva.

When Poinar collected the Dominican amber specimen several years ago, he was "mystified" by its contents, he told Live Science in an email. "Since I could not understand how these two different specimens could end up together," Poinar said. "I felt that the only way I could proceed was to identify both organisms and look for biological features that could explain their 'togetherness.'"

The flower measures just 0.09 inches (2.4 millimeters) long, and the species name — Plukenetia minima (from "minimus," the Latin word for "least") — is a nod to its diminutive size, Poinar wrote in the new study. It belongs to the flowering plant family Euphorbiaceae, which includes tropical plants such as poinsettias and the rubber tree The oldest Euphorbiaceae fruit fossils date to the latter part of the Cretaceous period (145 million to 66 million years ago), another team of researchers reported in the February issue of the International Journal of Plant Sciences(opens in new tab).

However, fossil evidence of this group is rare and only one other fossil flower is known, from sedimentary deposits in western Tennessee, Poinar wrote.


Well that's it for me for this firt August blog - more coming and more information on my
new interpretive super company. Watch for details.

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