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Researchers Opened The Stomach Of This Perfectly-Preserved Dinosaur ‘Mummy’ To Find Its Last Meal

“We were shocked to see beautifully preserved and concentrated plant material.”

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Researchers Opened The Stomach Of This Perfectly-Preserved Dinosaur ‘Mummy’ To Find Its Last Meal
Photo Credit: Mark Mitchelli/Royal Tyrrell Museum of Palaeontology

About 110 million years ago, a giant plant-eating Nodosaur gobbled down its last meal on Earth — and its stomach was preserved so well over time that scientists have now been able to determine what, exactly, its last meal was.

The remarkable specimen was first discovered in 2011 during a mining operation in Alberta, Canada.

The Nodosaur was found with its skin and guts intact and was altogether so well-preserved that it was referred to as a dinosaur “mummy.” A researcher involved in the study described the prehistoric specimen as having the best-preserved dinosaur stomach ever found to date.

A National Geographic video about the nodosaur, the best-preserved fossil of its kind ever discovered.

It took six years for Mark Mitchell, a technician at the Royal Tyrrell Museum of Palaeontology, to carefully dig out the dinosaur’s preserved skin and bones from the marine rock in which it had been encased. His efforts revealed a soccer ball-sized chunk of material left in the Nodosaur’s stomach.

The leaf fragments and other plant fossils were preserved down to the cells,” said David Greenwood, a biologist at Brandon University and co-author of the study.

The Nodosaur, or Borealopelta Markmitchelli, was an armoured giant. Despite its massive weight, which could be over a ton, the Nodosaur was a strict herbivore. And based on its stomach contents, its favourite vegetation was likely ferns.

A closer look at the nodosaur’s stomach contents.

After comparing its stomach contents with fossil leaves from the same time period and territory, researchers noted that the Nodosaur was a picky eater and preferred the soft leaves from certain types of ferns.

The lack of horsetails and rarity of cycads and conifers is surprising, given that these are very common in the surrounding flora,” said Caleb Marshall Brown, curator of dinosaur systematics and evolution at the Royal Tyrrell Museum of Palaeontology. “Even within ferns, it looks like Borealopelta may have had a preference for certain types of ferns while ignoring others.”

In total, researchers found 48 microfossils of pollen and spores, moss and liverwort, 26 club mosses and ferns, two flowering plants, and 13 conifers.

The study also noted that were pieces of charcoal in the Nodosaur’s stomach. This turned out to be consistent with its time period, as forest fires were a common occurrence during the early Cretaceous period and ferns, which were low to the ground, could survive.

This nodosaur is among the best-preserved dinosaur specimens known to date.
This nodosaur is among the best-preserved dinosaur specimens known to date.

Researchers estimated that a fire had indeed ravaged the grazing area of the Nodosaur about six months before it ate its last meal in the spring or summer.

“The discovery of charcoal together with a fern-filled stomach… suggested Borealopelta was likely a keystone herbivore that shaped the landscape by its grazing, and that it also grazed on the ferns growing in open areas created by wildfires,” Greenwood said. “That is so cool.”

The study was published in the journal Royal Society Open Science in June 2020.

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Evidence Of 120,000-Year-Old String Discovered In Israeli Cave

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120,000-Year-Old String
Image Credit: Bar-Yosef Mayer et al/Plos One/PA Wire

A team of archaeologists excavating a cave in Israel have made the incredible discovery of a collection of shells that were once threaded onto strings and worn by humans as beads 120,000 years ago. Archaeologists have previously discovered evidence of shells being used as adornments by humans across Africa and in the Eastern Mediterranean, but nothing like this group of shells has ever been found before. The Israeli team of archaeologists from Tel Aviv University made the remarkable discovery at the Qafzeh Cave near Nazareth, and they say the prehistoric humans collected the shells 120,000 years ago and strung them together to act like decorative beads.

Map of sites mentioned in the study and the location of Misliya and Qafzeh caves. Bottom left: Misliya excavation area and stratigraphy. (Bar-Yosef Mayer et al/Plos One)
Untwisting the Deep-History of Cordage

The Qafzeh cave in Israel was found to contain dozens of human skeletons who lived there during the Mediterranean Paleolithic period. Among these human remains the unique collection of shells were found to have been painted with ochre. According to Jewish News, the discovery of 120,000-year-old string and with the perforated shells is different to all other similar findings, demonstrating “one of the earliest instances of strings being used to hang objects.”

The archaeological project was funded by the American School of Prehistoric Research at Harvard University and The Israel Science Foundation grantWhen discussing the new paper published in PLOS ONE with Jewish News, Dr. Daniella Bar-Yosef Mayer of Tel Aviv University explains that “the fact that almost all of the specimens found in the archaeological sites are perforated, albeit naturally, suggests their collection is intentional and is meant to enable their stringing and display.”

Shells Were All the Rage 120,000 Years Ago

A PLOS release published on Eureka Alert says that to test their theory the team applied microscopic analysis of the shell’s wear-and-tear patterns which were found to be specific to string suspension. The researchers went out and collected the same species of clamshells as those found in the cave and hung them on strings made from wild flax. These strings were then abraded against various materials like sand, stone and leather, to test how the shells had been worn or used.

While is it is not at this time possible to determine the precise symbolic meaning of the shell beads recovered from Qafzeh cave, the new paper says bivalve shells are “a frequent hallmark across Paleolithic sites” and this gives a sense of their importance. However, where this discovery differs from all other prehistoric shell discoveries is in the use of string, which suggests that it was not just the collection of shells that was important, but the displaying of these shells to others was also culturally significant.

What this discovery represents, as a whole, is one of the earliest examples of objects or artifacts being hung on string, which enlightens archaeologists on the origins of string-making technology that is thought to have emerged between 160-120,000 years ago. In conclusion, in the PLOS release, Dr. Bar-Yosef Mayer explains that while modern humans collected un-perforated cockle shells for symbolic purposes 160,000 years ago or earlier, it is now clear that around 120,000 years ago they started “collecting perforated shells and wearing them on a string.” This means strings would have had many more applications within this time frame.

In April 2020 Ancient Origins reported on the discovery of fibers in France from 41,000 to 52,000 years ago. Top: SEM photo of Neanderthal cord from Abri du Maras. (Credit: M-H. Moncel) Bottom: Close-up of modern flax cordage showing twisted fibre construction. (Credit: S. Deryck)

This paper comes only months after Ancient Origins reported on the discovery of 41,000–52,000 year old fibers that were “twisted together,” which was described as “the oldest known direct evidence of someone using fibers to create string.” Professor Bruce Hardy told Ancient Origins that this discovery was a “huge step in our understanding of Neanderthals and helped demonstrate that they were not so different from us.”

Thanks to the new research published in PLOS ONE , this date has been pushed back even further, all the way to 120,000 years ago, where it will remain, for now.

This article (Evidence Of 120,000-Year-Old String Discovered In Israeli Cave) was originally created for Ancient Origins and is published here under Creative Commons.

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Paleontologists Find One Of The Biggest Prehistoric Predatory Fish In History

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Photo Credit: Cretaceous Period

Jocelyne LeBlancGuest Writer

The remains of a gigantic 70-million-year-old fish that lived during the same time as the dinosaurs have been discovered in Argentine Patagonia. The fish belonged to the Xiphactinus genus and was one of the biggest predatory fish that ever existed on Earth.

In a statement that was recently released, it read in part that the palaeontologists from Argentina “found the remains of a predator fish that was more than six meters long”. “The fossils of this carnivorous animal with sharp teeth and scary appearance were found close to the Colhue Huapial lake” which is located about 1,400 kilometres (870 miles) south of Buenos Aires. It had pretty distinct features as its body was quite slim with a large head and jaw which contained teeth that measured several centimetres in length and were as sharp as needles. Its appearance has been compared to the modern day tarpon fish although tarpons aren’t related to the Xiphactinus.

Recreation of a Xiphactinus.
Recreation of a Xiphactinus.

According to the statement, it lived in the Patagonian seas during the end of the Cretaceous Period (which lasted from 145.5 to 65.5 million years ago) when the temperatures were much calmer than they are today. As a matter of fact, the Patagonia region in South America is one of the most significant locations on Earth for where the remains of dinosaurs and other prehistoric creatures have been discovered.

Patagonia is located at the base of South America which includes the lower portions of Argentina and Chile. It covers an area of approximately 300,000 square miles (777,000 square kilometres) of Argentina and 131,275 square miles (340,000 square kilometres) of Chile.

tarpon fish 2020
The Xiphactinus looked similar to the modern day tarpon.

Prior to this recent find, the Xiphactinus had mostly been unearthed in the northern hemisphere with the exception of a recent discovery in Venezuela. In fact, the Xiphactinus has been connected to Europe, Australia, Canada, and the United States (Alabama, Georgia, and Kansas). Some previously found remains were so well preserved that their stomach contents were still intact.

The researchers’ findings were published in the scientific journal Alcheringa: An Australasian Journal of Palaeontology.

Recommended Articles by Jocelyne LeBlanc
About the Author

Jocelyne LeBlanc works full time as a writer and is also an author with two books currently published. She has written articles for several online websites, and had an article published in a Canadian magazine on the most haunted locations in Atlantic Canada. She has a fascination with the paranormal and ghost stories, especially those that included haunted houses. In her spare time, she loves reading, watching movies, making crafts, and watching hockey.

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America Is Not A Christian Nation And Never Has Been

The text of the U.S. Constitution makes no mention of God, Jesus Christ, or Christianity.

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Christian Nation
Scene at the Signing of the Constitution of the United Statesby Howard Chandler Christy.

The founding fathers’ religion wasn’t always worn on their sleeves. Looking back, it’s quite difficult to tell where some of our nation’s great leaders fell on the religious scale. Deism was popular at the time – the belief in God as the creator of all things, but not as a miracle worker or one that answers to prayer.

Sure, there are the books written and speeches given. But often personal letters and eyewitnesses are a more accurate gauge of belief. As with any time period, there are sometimes those who aren’t what they seem or claim to be on the surface.

These are the men that fought for religious freedom and the separation of church and state. In fact, God, Jesus Christ, and Christianity are not stated once in all of the Constitution, and it is clearly done so on purpose.

The Constitution even bars all laws from “respecting an establishment of religion,” while also protecting “the free exercise thereof.”

Remember, the founding fathers understood their history. They’d seen how the Christian governments of Europe took advantage of the individual freedom of its citizens. They’d seen they constant internal bickering and wars amongst Christian factions.

Even though the Constitution states that “no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States,” today some of these very men would be deemed unfit to lead on their respective platforms. To hold them up as a Pinnacle of Christianity is likely as false as George Washington’s teeth. Here are some of the surprising faiths of our founding fathers.

Thomas Jefferson
Thomas Jefferson 2020
Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons

The man that composed the Declaration of Independence was more interested in protecting religious freedom than imposing religion upon anyone else. It was this very freedom that allowed Thomas Jefferson to cut up his bible and take out anything he didn’t like. Mainly, that included any mention of miracles or things that were “contrary to reason.” This aligned his beliefs more with Deism than Christianity – of which he was baptized into at birth.

Jefferson’s custom assemblage of bible passages was never meant to be published; it was strictly for his own use. However, it acquired a name; The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth. Almost 70 years after he died, Jefferson’s great-granddaughter sold the book to the Smithsonian Institution.

“I am of a sect by myself, as far as I know,” Jefferson once said. This stance caused a slight ruckus in the Presidential election of 1800 when the Federalists attacked him as being atheist. Nevertheless, Jefferson won that election running under the Democratic-Republican party.

In 1823, Jefferson wrote to John Adams, famously remarking:

“The day will come when the mystical generation of Jesus by the Supreme Being in the womb of a virgin, will be classed with the fable of the generation of Minerva in the brain of Jupiter. … But we may hope that the dawn of reason and freedom of thought in these United States will do away with all this artificial scaffolding…. “

John Adams
John Adams 2020
Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons

“The Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion.”

These words, placed in the 1796 Treaty of Tripoli by founding father and first vice-president John Adams, are often used as a springboard for debate.

While those words are printed in black and white, there is some underlying context to consider. The treaty goes on to say that “it is declared by the parties that no pretext arising from religious opinions shall ever produce an interruption of the harmony existing between the two countries.” Which gives the context of religious opinions as an invalid excuse to go against the treaty.

So, perhaps that snippet of one document doesn’t prove Adams’ reluctance to full-heartedly embrace Christianity, but later he recognized the “rise of sects and schisms, heresies and bigotries, which have abounded in the Christian world,” and reportedly used deist language in his speeches.

Whatever religion John Adams identified himself as throughout his life, a letter to his wife says quite the mouthful on Catholicism. “This afternoon’s entertainment was to me most awful and affecting,” he wrote. “The poor wretches fingering their beads, chanting Latin, not a word of which they understood…”

George Washington
George Washington 2020
Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Another founding father with an unclear belief system was none other than our very first President, George Washington. To say his religion is unclear simply brings notice that there are many books written about Washington, and all of them put him anywhere in the spectrum between Orthodox Christian and strict Deist.

Washington used terms such as “Providence” or “supreme architect” when making speeches or writings. These are Deist terms – but not exclusively so. Washington did not use the names “Jesus” or “Christ” in public appearances; but again, many at the time did not.

Born unto Protestants, Washington certainly frequented church as a child, but reportedly did not attend regularly as an adult, or participate in religious rites. He often left services before communion – and when called out on it, stopped attending that church on communion days.

At any rate, Washington was a staunch advocate for religious freedom. Perhaps the most telltale indication of how religious Washington was came at the end of his life. On his deathbed no priest was called; no minister summoned. In life, he’d imparted to his children the importance of honesty and character, but no mention of religion.

Thomas Paine
Thomas Paine 2020
Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons

A proponent of free thought and reason, Paine had one of the more defined belief systems. He lamented institutionalized religion – and Christianity in particular. In his younger days, some of the hardships he endured would sway others to the comforting arms of the church. Paine’s wife died in childbirth, and his child died as well.

But Thomas Paine made no qualms about his radical Deism; calling the bible the “pretended word of God”. And we know he’s read it because he tears it a new one book by book in his writing The Age of Reason.

“Whenever we read the obscene stories, the voluptuous debaucheries, the cruel and tortuous executions, the unrelenting vindictiveness with which more than half the Bible is filled, it would be more consistent that we call it the word of a demon than the word of God,” he writes.

Paine may have never held public office but is deemed a founding father nonetheless. There weren’t many American Revolutionary rebels who didn’t read Paine’s pamphlet Common Sense which shaped the demand for independence from Great Britain. Without Paine, The United States might still be under British rule.

This article (America Is Not A Christian Nation And Never Has Been) was originally created for All That Interesting and is published here under Creative Commons.

The views in this article may not reflect editorial policy of Collective Spark.

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Modern Reason Why The Maya Abandoned Ancient City Of Tikal

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Ancient City Of Tikal
Photo Credit: Ancient Origins

Paul SeaburnGuest Writer

There are many reasons why major cities today might collapse and be abandoned by their citizenry – war, natural disaster, changing demographics, climate change, etc. In most cases, the cause is evident or easy to ascertain. That hasn’t been the case with the great cities of the Classic Maya civilization. It reigned over what is now Central America for centuries – from about 250 to 900 CE – when the massive urban centres of Palenque, Copán, Tikal and Calakmul collapsed and were mysteriously abandoned, with some Mayas moving to the Northern Yucatán where a few empires grew (Chichén Itzá for example) but then collapsed again, this time for a very explainable reason – the invasion of Europeans. Recently, archaeologists studying the ruins of Tikal in what is now Guatemala finally figured out the reason why it was abandoned … and it’s a very modern tragedy.

“The ancient Maya abandoned the major center of Tikal in the mid-ninth century CE and although scholars have studied this site intensively for the past 60 years, exactly how and why the city met its ill-fated ending have remained unanswered questions. Our investigations, combining novel aDNA and soil geochemistry assays, however, shed significant new light on the abandonment of this once-powerful political, ceremonial and commercial hub.”

Tikal: Located in the wilds of Tikal National Park about 200 miles north of Guatemala City, this metropolis was settled as early as 600 B.C.

In a new study published in Scientific Reports and summarized in a press release by the University of Cincinnati, anthropologists, geographers, botanists, biologists and chemists from the school describe how they went underground into 10 reservoirs which had been used to collect and store rainwater in this area that was far from lakes and rivers and prone to droughts. The waters were used for drinking, households, farming and by the leaders for ceremonial pools used to show their alleged mastery over the rains and the waters. Unfortunately, the masters weren’t in control of something else – the habits of their own people.

“We found two types of blue-green algae that produce toxic chemicals. The bad thing about these is they’re resistant to boiling. It made water in these reservoirs toxic to drink.”

David Lentz, a UC professor of biological sciences and lead author of the study, tells what the researchers found when analysing the sediments from the reservoirs. Even if the Tikal residents held their noses and tried to force down the algae-filled water, there was something else in it that would have killed them … mercury. How did this toxic metal end up in the water? The researchers ruled out the surrounding bedrock and volcanic ash. But when they came back out of the reservoirs and looked around, they found the answer.

“Color was important in the ancient Maya world. They used it in their murals. They painted the plaster red. They used it in burials and combined it with iron oxide to get different shades.”

Kenneth Tankersley, an associate professor of anthropology in UC’s College of Arts and Sciences and study co-author, knew exactly what gave those murals their red color variations – cinnabar. Cinnabar is a bright-red toxic mercury sulphide mineral used as a pigment around the world – including in ancient Central America.

“That means the mercury has to be anthropogenic.”

There’s your word and warning for the day. ‘Anthropogenic’ means “originating in human activity.” The Maya and their leaders liked seeing everything decorated, so they slapped coats of cinnabar-laden colouring on every bare surface. That might not have been a problem if Tikal was on a river and the runoff headed downstream to the next unsuspecting village, but every rain washed a little bit off of every wall into every reservoir that eventually ended up in every glass and bowl and belly. It was mercury poisoning together with the foulest-tasting water around that caused the demise and abandonment of Tikal.

The Mayan city of Tikal is an outsized time capsule with a natural ambiance that hasn’t changed in 1,300 years.

“There may well have been those who saw the events described above and the concomitant droughts as a failure of their leaders to adequately appease the Maya gods. Indeed, these events coming together must have resulted in a demoralized populace who, in the face of dwindling water and food supplies, became more willing to abandon their homes.”

While that explains the demise of Tikal, it may not be the reason for the abandonment of other cities, but it must have contributed in some part.

Residents of Flint, Michigan, are welcome to send a copy of this story to THEIR Leaders.

Recommended Articles by Paul Seaburn
About the Author

Paul Seaburn is the editor at Mysterious Universe and its most prolific writer. He’s written for TV shows such as “The Tonight Show”, “Politically Incorrect” and an award-winning children’s program. He’s been published in “The New York Times” and “Huffington Post” and has co-authored numerous collections of trivia, puzzles and humour. His “What in the World!” podcast is a fun look at the latest weird and paranormal news, strange sports stories and odd trivia. Paul likes to add a bit of humour to each MU post he crafts. After all, the mysterious doesn’t always have to be serious.

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