New extinct gibbon species discovery in Chinese tomb


This 2015 video is called Singing Gibbons.

By Bruce Bower, 2:00pm, June 21, 2018:

A 2,200-year-old Chinese tomb held a new gibbon species, now extinct

Researchers suspect that humans drove this previously unknown lineage to extinction

A royal crypt from China’s past has issued a conservation alert for apes currently eking out an existence in East Asia.

The partial remains of a gibbon were discovered in 2004 in an excavation of a 2,200- to 2,300-year-old tomb in central China’s Shaanxi Province. Now, detailed comparisons of the animal’s face and teeth with those of living gibbons show that the buried ape is from a previously unknown and now-extinct genus and species, conservation biologist Samuel Turvey and colleagues report in the June 22 Science. His team named the creature Junzi imperialis.

There’s currently no way to know precisely when J. imperialis died out. But hunting and the loss of forests due to expanding human populations likely played big roles in the demise of the ape, the researchers contend.

“Until the discovery of J. imperialis, it was thought that the worrying global decline of apes was a modern-day phenomenon”, says Turvey, of the Zoological Society of London’s Institute of Zoology. “We’re now realizing that there may have been numerous human-caused extinctions of apes and other primates in the past.”

The climate was relatively stable several thousand years ago, and no vertebrate extinctions have been definitively linked to natural climate shifts over the past 10,000 years. So “it is reasonable to conclude that Junzi became extinct as a result of human impacts”, says study coauthor Alejandra Ortiz, a paleoanthropologist at Arizona State University in Tempe.

Historical records indicate that gibbons with features similar to those of J. imperialis, as well as some other distinctive-looking gibbon populations no longer observed in the wild, inhabited central and southern China up to around 300 years ago, the researchers say. Most gibbons today are found in Southeast Asia.

The tomb is thought to have belonged to the grandmother of China’s first emperor, Qin Shihuang, who ordered the building of the Great Wall of China and the famous terra-cotta warriors (SN: 9/16/17, p. 19). Twelve pits with animal remains, including those of the gibbon, were found in the crypt. During Qin’s reign and throughout much of Chinese history, gibbons were thought to have noble traits, and royals often acquired gibbons as high-status pets. Ancient Chinese art includes many depictions of gibbons, too.

Turvey’s group compared a 3-D digital reconstruction of the gibbon’s skull, based on its skeletal remains, with 477 skulls from nearly all living species of gibbons and siamangs, a closely related ape. Digital images of the recovered gibbon’s upper and lower molar teeth were compared with 789 molars from 279 present-day gibbon and siamang individuals.

“The science in this paper is strong, but its message for the future of apes and all animals and plants on Earth today is dismal”, says biological anthropologist Brenda Benefit of New Mexico State University in Las Cruces. All species of gibbons living today remain imperiled, as do most other primates, due to serious challenges from habitat loss, hunting and the international trade in exotic pets (SN: 3/17/18, p. 10).

While the new report highlights long-standing human threats to gibbons’ survival, the ancient gibbon’s remains may not represent a new genus, holds biological anthropologist Terry Harrison of New York University. A partial skull from a captive ape of unknown geographic origin leaves crucial questions unanswered, including what the creature’s lower body looked like, Harrison says. Relatively complete skeletons of wild gibbons from Chinese sites dating to the past 10,000 years are needed to check the Shaanxi ape’s evolutionary ID, he contends.

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Amelia Edwards, British lesbian Egyptologist


This 2009 video from Britain says about itself:

Amelia Edwards: Egyptology’s Greatest Woman (at London’s Petrie Museum)

Heritage Key enters the Petrie Museum in London to talk to the curator Dr Stephen Quirke, who explains the importance of one of the co-founders of the Egypt Exploration Society – Amelia Edwards.

By Peter Frost in Britain:

Friday, June 8, 2018

Frosty’s Ramblings: Amelia Edwards: lesbian and Egyptologist

With Pride month beginning tomorrow, PETER FROST tells the remarkable story of the author of A Thousand Miles up the Nile

AMELIA B EDWARDS was a Victorian English writer of the Arthur Conan Doyle School. Like Conan Doyle — who didn’t think Sherlock Holmes was his best writing — she made her not inconsiderable fortune from the books she didn’t rate as her favourites or her best work.

Perhaps her best-known work was a collection of ghost stories including the famous The Phantom Coach. Her novels included Barbara’s History and Lord Brackenbury.

But it was two travel books including A Thousand Miles up the Nile, and Untrodden Peaks and Unfrequented Valleys: A Midsummer Ramble in the Dolomites, both written and illustrated by her, that were her proudest works.

Edwards was born in London to an Irish mother and a father who had been a British army officer before becoming a banker.

Home educated by her mother, she was already showing considerable promise as a writer at a very young age. She published her first poem at age seven, her first story at age 12.

She had work published in a large number of magazines including Chamber’s Journal and Charles Dickens’s Household Words, as well as the Saturday Review and the Morning Post.

Her first full-length novel was My Brother’s Wife, published when she was just 25. Her early novels were well received, but it was Barbara’s History, a novel about bigamy, that solidly established her reputation as a novelist.

It is hard today to understand just how popular she was. Her last novel, Lord Brackenbury, for instance, ran to no less than 15 editions.

The wealth these books brought her allowed her to write about what really interested her — travel and particularly Egyptology.

In the winter of 1873-4, accompanied by several friends, she toured Egypt, discovering a fascination with the land and its cultures, both ancient and modern.

She hired a dahabiyeh — a houseboat with a huge sail and an Egyptian crew. At this time Egypt and its many ancient sites had become a popular tourist destination with the well-to-do from England, Germany and other parts of Europe.

These tourists were often keen amateur archaeologists and they fell into two distinct camps. There were those who thought that all the best artefacts and works of art should be shipped home to the huge museums of Bloomsbury and many rival city museums of Germany or, even worse, into private collections.

Others took the view that the art should be left where it was in Egypt. Edwards sided with this view. A keen artist, she mostly sketched rather than collected what she saw.

She and her friends visited Cairo, Philae and ultimately reached Abu Simbel. Edwards’s description of her Nile voyage, A Thousand Miles up the Nile, was the outcome of this trip. The book was illustrated by beautiful and accurate wood engravings taken from her hand-drawn sketches. It became an immediate bestseller.

The book led, in 1882, to her co-founding the Egypt Exploration Fund, which still exists today as the Egypt Exploration Society.

Edwards’s travels in Egypt had made her aware of the increasing threats directed towards the ancient monuments by tourism and modern development.

Determined to stem these threats by the force of public awareness and scientific endeavour, Edwards became a tireless public advocate for the research and preservation of the ancient monuments.

She worked closely and supported the English archaeologist and Egyptologist Flinders Petrie. He became the first Edwards Professor of Egyptian Archaeology and Philology at University College London, taking the chair that was set up and funded in 1892 by a bequest shortly after her death.

She had instructed that Petrie should be its first incumbent. He continued to excavate in Egypt after taking up the professorship, training many of the best archaeologists of the day.

One of his students was Howard Carter, who went on to discover the tomb of Tutankhamun.

With the aim of advancing the fund’s work, Edwards largely abandoned her other literary work to concentrate on Egyptology. She wrote the Encyclopaedia Britannica entry on Egyptology.

As part of her efforts, Edwards embarked on an ambitious lecture tour of the United States in the period 1889-90. The content of these lectures was later published as Pharaohs, Fellahs and Explorers.

As well as writing ghost stories and travel books, Amelia seems to have made no secret of her unconventional sexual orientation. Some modern biographers have tried to hide this aspect of her life but Edwards never did.

Her friend, the author and critic John Addington Symonds, told Henry Havelock Ellis that she made no secret of her lesbian lifestyle.

Havelock Ellis was in 1897 co-author of the first medical textbook in English on homosexuality and he also published works on a variety of sexual orientations and inclinations.

She told both Symonds and Ellis she had formed a menage a trois with an English woman and her clergyman husband. Symonds said she told him that one day the husband had married Edwards to his wife at the altar of his church.

This unconventional bisexual couple were almost certainly John Rice Byrne and Ellen Byrne who the 1871 census shows as living at 7 Cambridge Park, Bristol. He was a clergyman and school inspector. When they moved away from Bristol, Edwards told Symonds it was like a death blow.

Edwards died of influenza on April 15 1892 at Weston-super-Mare. She is buried in the churchyard of St Mary’s Church, Henbury, Bristol, and her grave is marked by a distinctive Egyptian obelisk and stone ankh — the ancient Egyptian symbol of life shaped like a cross with a loop at the top.

Buried beside Edwards is her lifetime companion, partner and lover Ellen Drew Braysher, with whom she shared a home for 30 years. Historic England designated her grave as Grade II listed, celebrating it as a landmark in English LGBT history.

Today many of Edwards’s books, now long out of copyright, can be downloaded free from the internet.

Ice Age art animal depiction and autism


This is a drawing of a horse by Nadia, a gifted autistic child artist (left) and by a typically developing child of the same age (right). Credit: Penny Spikins, University of York, England

This is a drawing of a horse by Nadia, a gifted autistic child artist (left) and by a typically developing child of the same age (right). Credit: Penny Spikins, University of York, England.

From the University of York:

How our ancestors with autistic traits led a revolution in Ice Age art

The ability to focus on detail, a common trait among people with autism, allowed realism to flourish in Ice Age art, according to researchers at the University of York.

Around 30,000 years ago realistic art suddenly flourished in Europe. Extremely accurate depictions of bears, bison, horses and lions decorate the walls of Ice Age archaeological sites such as Chauvet Cave in southern France.

Why our ice age ancestors created exceptionally realistic art rather than the very simple or stylised art of earlier modern humans has long perplexed researchers.

Many have argued that psychotropic drugs were behind the detailed illustrations. The popular idea that drugs might make people better at art led to a number of ethically-dubious studies in the 60s where participants were given art materials and LSD.

The authors of the new study discount that theory, arguing instead that individuals with “detail focus”, a trait linked to autism, kicked off an artistic movement that led to the proliferation of realistic cave drawings across Europe.

Lead author of the paper, Dr Penny Spikins from the Department of Archaeology at the University of York, said: “Detail focus is what determines whether you can draw realistically; you need it in order to be a talented realistic artist. This trait is found very commonly in people with autism and rarely occurs in people without it.

“We looked at the evidence from studies attempting to identify a link between artistic talent and drug use, and found that drugs can only serve to dis-inhibit individuals with a pre-existing ability. The idea that people with a high degree of detail focus, many of which may have had autism, set a trend for extreme realism in ice age art is a more convincing explanation.”

The research adds to a growing body of evidence that people with autistic traits played an important role in human evolution.

Dr Spikins added: “Individuals with this trait — both those who would be diagnosed with autism in the modern day and those that wouldn’t — likely played an important part in human evolution and survival as we colonised Europe.

“As well as contributing to early culture, people with the attention to detail needed to paint realistic art would also have had the focus to create complex tools from materials such as bone, rock and wood. These skills became increasingly important in enabling us to adapt to the harsh environments we encountered in Europe.”

Human ancestors in the Philippines, 700,000 years ago


This 2 May 2018 video is called Ancient butchered rhino suggests humans lived in the Philippines 700,000 years ago.

By Bruce Bower, 1:00pm, May 2, 2018:

Butchered rhino bones place hominids in the Philippines 700,000 years ago

The earliest known evidence had been a 66,700-year-old human toe bone

Stone tools strewn among rhinoceros bones indicate that hominids had reached the Philippines by around 709,000 years ago, scientists report online May 2 in Nature.

Stone Age Homo species who crossed the ocean from mainland Asia to the Philippines — possibly aboard uprooted trees or some kind of watercraft — may also have moved to islands farther south, the team proposes. Evidence of ancient hominids has been found on some Indonesian islands, including individuals’ fossil remains on Flores (SN: 7/9/16, p. 6) and ancient stone tools on Sulawesi (SN: 2/6/16, p. 7).

But researchers hadn’t found old enough evidence of hominids in the Philippines to suggest such a journey — until now. At an excavation site in the landlocked northern region of Kalinga in the Philippines, more than 400 animal bones have been discovered, including much of a rhino skeleton, and 57 stone artifacts. Cuts and pounding marks on 13 of the rhino bones resulted from meat and marrow removal, say bioarchaeologist Thomas Ingicco of the National Museum of Natural History in Paris and colleagues. Other fossils came from brown deer, monitor lizards, freshwater turtles and extinct, elephant-like creatures called stegodons.

Measures of the decay and accumulation of radioactive elements in Kalinga sediment and an excavated rhino tooth suggest the fossils are roughly 709,000 years old, give or take about 68,000 years.

Previously, the earliest evidence of hominids in the Philippines came from a roughly 66,700-year-old human toe bone. It’s not known if the ancient individual who unwittingly donated the toe bone to science descended from Kalinga’s roughly 700,000-year-old rhino butchers or from a population that reached the Philippines later.

Female pharaoh Hatshepsut picture discovered


This 2017 video is called Hatshepsut: Secrets of Egypt’s Lost Queen.

From Swansea University in Wales:

Mysterious head of a pharaoh discovered by Swansea Egyptologist

March 23, 2018

Swansea University Egyptology lecturer Dr Ken Griffin has found a depiction of one of the most famous pharaohs in history Hatshepsut (one of only a handful of female pharaohs) on an object in the Egypt Centre stores, which had been chosen for an object handling session.

The opportunity to handle genuine Egyptian artefacts is provided by the Egypt Centre to students studying Egyptology at Swansea University.

This video is called Introduction to The Egypt Centre, Swansea.

During a recent handling session for an Egyptian Art and Architecture module Dr Kenneth Griffin, from the University’s Department of Classics, Ancient History and Egyptology, noticed that one of the objects chosen was much more interesting than initially thought.

Consisting of two irregularly shaped limestone fragments that have been glued together, the object had been kept in storage for over twenty years and was requested for the handling session based only on an old black and white photograph.

The front side depicts the head of a figure whose face is unfortunately missing, with the remains of a fan directly behind. Traces of hieroglyphs are also present above the head. The iconography of the piece indicates that it represents a ruler of Egypt, particularly with the presence of the uraeus (cobra) on the forehead of the figure. Who is this mysterious pharaoh and where did the fragment originate from?

A search of the Egypt Centre records provides no information on the original provenance or find spot of the object. What is known is that it came to Swansea in 1971 as part of the distribution of objects belonging to Sir Henry Wellcome (1853-1936), the pharmaceutical entrepreneur based in London. The fragments are less than 5cm thick and had clearly been removed from the wall of a temple or tomb, as can be seen from the cut marks on the back.

Having visited Egypt on over fifty occasions, Dr Griffin quickly recognised the iconography as being similar to reliefs within the temple of Hatshepsut at Deir el-Bahri (Luxor), which was constructed during the height of the New Kingdom. In particular, the treatment of the hair, the fillet headband with twisted uraeus, and the decoration of the fan are all well-known at Deir el-Bahri.

Most importantly, the hieroglyphs above the head — part of a formulaic text attested elsewhere at the temple — use a feminine pronoun, a clear indication that the figure is female.

Hatshepsut was the fifth pharaoh of the Eighteenth Dynasty (c.1478-1458 BC) and one of only a handful of women to have held this position. Early in her reign she was represented as a female wearing a long dress, but she gradually took on more masculine traits, including being depicted with a beard. The reign of Hatshepsut was one of peace and prosperity, which allowed her to construct monuments throughout Egypt. Her memorial temple at Deir el-Bahri, built to celebrate and maintain her cult, is a masterpiece of Egyptian architecture.

Many fragments were taken from this site during the late nineteenth century, before the temple was excavated by the Egypt Exploration Fund (now Egypt Exploration Society) between 1902-1909. Since 1961 the Polish Archaeological Mission to Egypt has been excavating, restoring, and recording the temple.

Yet the mystery of the precious find doesn’t end there. On the rear of the upper fragment, the head of a man with a short beard is depicted. Initially there was no explanation for this, but it is now clear that the upper fragment had been removed and recarved in more recent times in order to complete the face of the lower fragment. The replacement of the fragment below the figure would also explain the unusual cut of the upper fragment. This was probably done by an antiques dealer, auctioneer, or even the previous owner of the piece in order to increase its value and attractiveness. It was eventually decided at an unknown date to glue the fragments together in the original layout, which is how they now appear.

While Deir el-Bahri seems the most likely provenance for this artefact, further research is needed in order to confirm this and it may even be possible to one day determine the exact spot the fragments originated from.

Given the importance of the object, the head of Hatshepsut has now been placed on display in a prominent position within the House of Life at the Egypt Centre so that the relief can be appreciated by visitors to the Centre.

Dr Griffin said: “The Egypt Centre is a wonderful resource and is certainly one of the major factors in attracting students to study Egyptology at Swansea University.”

“The identification of the object as depicting Hatshepsut caused great excitement amongst the students. After all, it was only through conducting handling sessions for them that this discovery came to light.”

“While most of the students have never visited Egypt before, the handling sessions help to bring Egypt to them.”

Roman graves discovery in the Netherlands


This video from the Netherlands says about itself (translated):

Unique find: complete Roman grave field discovered

8 March 2018

In preparation for the extension of the A15 motorway from Ressen junction to the A12, the Dutch public works authority conducted archaeological research. During this research, they found in Bemmel a complete Roman grave field from the second and third centuries AD. It was excavated.

In total, the archaeologists have discovered 48 graves. There also found many luxurious grave gifts in the graveyard, such as crockery, tableware and personal belongings like mirrors, hair needles and a perfume bottle.

Read more here.