Info Highway: Archaeology and Paleontology News – July 15th 2009


World of Archaeology and Paleontology

Discovery News – Giant Clawed Dinosaur Unearthed in Utah [July 14th 2009]…

hand_point2  A multi-institutional team of scientists this week reports the discovery of a giant new dinosaur in Utah, Nothronychus graffami, which stood 13 feet tall and had nine-inch long hand claws that looked like scythes. Its skeleton, described in the current issue of Proceedings of the Royal Society B, represents the most complete remains ever excavated of a therizinosaur, meaning “reaper lizard.” It is one of only three such dinosaurs ever found in North America. Lead author Lindsay Zanno told Discovery News that therizinosaurs, including the new Utah species “are unusual in that they have small heads with a keratinous beak at the front of the mouth – the same material as the beak of modern birds – and small leaf-shaped teeth. Their bellies are proportionately enormous, supporting large guts,” added Zanno, who is a researcher in the Department of Geology at The Field Museum. “They have greatly enlarged claws on their hands, short legs and tails, and four-toed feet.” Therizinosaurs are theropod predatory dinosaurs, a group that includes the legendary Tyrannosaurus rex. The newly discovered 92.5-million-year-old Utah dinosaur was no lightweight either. As Zanno said, “You wouldn’t want to run into this guy in a dark alley.” But its teeth, beak, gut and other anatomical characteristics suggest it was an omnivore that mostly feasted on plants. Co-author David Gillette, curator of paleontology at the Museum of Northern Arizona, told Discovery News the formidable-looking claws on Nothronychus graffami probably weren’t used to kill other large animals, but instead might have tackled “digging into termite mounds, mucking on the bottom of a lake or pond like a goose or moose, and raking leaves into its mouth from a mangrove forest like a ground sloth.”

hand_point2  Archeologists Uncover Unique Burial Pit – World Archaeology News …

Archaeologists working on the Weymouth Relief Road have discovered a burial pit of dismembered skeletons which have now (14 July 2009) been carbon-dated to the late Saxon period, over 1,000 years ago – not to the late Iron Age as previously thought. 50 of the skeletons were decapitated. … Oxford Archaeology project managerDavid Score said:
“We have counted 45 skulls so far, these are in one section of the pit, and several torsos and leg bones in separate sections of the pit. It is rare to find a burial site like this one. There are lots of different types of burial where skeletons may be aligned along a compass axis or in a crouched position, but to find something like this is just incredible. We’re still working on carefully recording and recovering all of the skeletons, which will be taken back to our offices in 
Oxford
 for detailed analysis, and trying to piece together the extraordinary story behind these remains. Watch the BBC Video 

hand_point2  Last Supper of the Hominids Establishes Times They Lived At Sites – Science Daily [July 15th 2009] …

In the French cave of Arago, an international team of scientists has analyzed the dental wear of the fossils of herbivorous animals hunted by Homo heidelbergensis. It is the first time that an analytical method has allowed the establishment of the length of human occupations at archaeological sites. The key is the last food that these hominids consumed. … Florent Rivals is the main author and a researcher from the Catalan Studies (ICREA), attached to the IPHES in Tarragona. … Thanks to the “last supper phenomenon”, the scientists have been able to analyze the last food consumed by animals such as the Eurasian wild horse (Equus ferus), the mouflon (Ovis ammon antique) and the reindeer (Rangifer tarandus). … The application has allowed the researchers to estimate the length of the occupation of the site from the Lower Paleolithic Age in the cave of Arago (France) by the number of marks on the fossils, and, therefore, the variation in the diet of several species of herbivores, as “each season presented food resources which were limited and different in the environment”, the paleontologist clarified. … The Spanish and German researchers have combined this application with multidisciplinary studies of archaeological sites in order to apply it to other settlements of the Mid-Paleolithic Age such as Payre (France), Taubach (Germany) and Abric Romani (Spain).

hand_point2Ancient Fortress City Unearthed in Egypt – Discovery News [July 14th 2009] …

Egyptian archaeologists digging near the Suez Canal have discovered the remains of what is believed to be the largest fortress in the eastern Delta, Egypt’s Minister of Culture, Farouk Hosni, announced. Located at the site of Tell Dafna, between El-Manzala Lake and the Suez Canal, the remains reveal the foundation of a military town about 15 kilometers (nine miles) northeast of the city of western Qantara. … Dating to the 7th century B.C., the foundations unearthed by the archaeologists most likely belonged to Psammetichus I’s fortified garrison town. One of the forts on the “Ways of Horus”, an ancient military and trade route that connected Egypt with the East, Daphnae is mentioned by the Greek historian Herodotus (484-425 B.C.), who described it as Psammetichus I’s guard post “against the Arabians and Assyrians.”

hand_point2Untouched Tomb of Aztec King on Verge of Discovery? – National Geographic [July 14th 2009] …

After nearly 30 years in the field, archaeologist Leonardo López Luján may be on the verge of the discovery of a lifetime: the only known tomb of an Aztec king. An air of excitement has been thickening around Mexico’s Temple Mayor (Great Temple) since 2006, when excavations near the temple revealed a stone monolith with a carving of an Aztec goddess. Recently the anticipation intensified with the discovery of a richly decorated canine skeleton near a sealed entrance. The animal was found wearing wooden ear flaps mounted with turquoise mosaic, a collar of greenstone beads, and golden bells around its four feet. … The skeleton could be that of a dog or a Mexican wolf … Many ancient Mesoamerican cultures, including the Aztec, believed that dogs escorted their masters to the afterlife, … The Temple Mayor canine skeleton was found next to a stone box that contained the remains of a golden eagle, flint sacrificial knives, crustacean shells, and balls of copal resin – tree sap thought to have been used in various substances, such as incense, medicine, and glue. Recent excavations also uncovered unbroken plaster seals made of lime and sand. … That the seals are unbroken suggests that the potential tomb has not been looted.

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Bibliography – Sources

Archaeologica News 
Archaeology Magazine 
Archaeological 
Institute of America 
World Archaeology 
Archaeology News – Discovery Channel
Ancient World and Archaeology News – National Geographic
Archaeology & Paleontology News – Scientific American
Paleontology News – Science Daily
Paleontology News – PaleNews
Paleontology Portal – University of California Museum