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Ancient ‘Texas Serengeti’ is Filled With Strange Fossils

From 1935 to 1943, the Works Progress Administration (WPA) employed millions of (mostly) men unemployed by the Great Depression for public works projects such as building roads, bridges and schools. The WPA also employed musicians, writers and actors in arts and literacy projects. One little known activity in Texas involved hunting for and collecting fossils across the state. Those fossils – tens of thousands of them – were taken to a storage facility at the University of Texas and, once the Depression was over, forgotten … until now. A researcher found them and traced many of the most unusual fossils to an area in Beeville that had such a diverse animal population, it has been given a new name: the Texas Serengeti.

“It’s the most representative collection of life from this time period of Earth history along the Texas Coastal Plain.”

Steven May is the research associate at the UT Jackson School of Geosciences who found and studied the fossils and traced them to four dig sites, including one in Bee County in southern Texas. According to a press release by UT, finding where they came from was necessary because, while the collection was huge, there were many missing pieces.

“They collected the big, obvious stuff. But that doesn’t fully represent the incredible diversity of the Miocene environment along the Texas Coastal Plain.”

Did Texas once look like this?

Using aerial photography and notes from the WPA program stored in the university’s archives, May and his team found the exact location of one of the dig sites along a creek on a private ranch near Beeviille, the Bee country seat. In his paper, “The Lapara Creek Fauna: Early Clarendonian of south Texas, USA,” published in Palaeontologia Electronica, May describes the breadth of the diversity that earned the spot the title of “Texas Serengeti.”

“Of the 50 species of fossil vertebrates, five species are fish, seven are reptiles, two are birds and 36 are mammals. The 36 species of mammals represent 31 genera of which four are rodents, five are carnivores, two are proboscideans, 10 are artiodactyls and 10 are perissodactyls.”

For those not up on their Clarendonian age animals, proboscideans are elephant ancestors, artiodactyls are hoofed animals that bear their weight on two of their five toes (cattle, sheep, llamas, etc.) and perissodactyls are hoofed animals that bear their weight on one toe (horses, rhinos, etc.). If that’s not enough to get you excited and yelling “Go Texas” and “Hook ‘em Horns,” May points out that the collection includes new genus of gomphothere, an extinct relative of elephants, an extinct cousin of modern dogs and the oldest fossils of the American alligator.

Don’t mess with Texas. Go do your business in Oklahoma.

After being kept in the dark for 80 years at UT and about 10,000 years in Beeville dirt before that, the Texas Serengeti fossils are moving around more now than they did on the Texas plain. They’re being used in UT classes to teach archeology students how to carefully find and remove fossils so they can resume the work started in the 1930s when it was just an activity to keep people whole, active and earning a decent wage until the Depression ended. These students will have the advantage of better equipment, computerized analysis tools and educators who won’t forget where the bones are.

The Texas Serengeti … an archeological Lone Star goldmine or a new adventure movie starring Matthew McConaughey?

Can we have both?

Source: Mysterious Universe

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Ancient

Camazotz: the “Batman” of Mayan mythology

Batman is not the only batman that exists, or at least he is not the first. Since before the DC Comics hero there was Camazotz, a mysterious pre-Hispanic deity that symbolized night, death and sacrifice.

Camazotz: the "Batman" of Mayan mythology

Although in recent days this dark Mayan god has had a great impact on the networks, there is not much information available about him. One of the few places where we find something is in the Popol Vuh, the ancient stories of the Quiche.

There this bat man is a kind of angel that descends from Heaven in order to decapitate the wooden humans of the second creation of the gods Tepeu and Kukulkan, for being imperfect and having no feelings.

In the same book of the Popol Vuh we are told that Ixbalanqué and Hunahpú, the twin gods, were the sons of Hun-Hunahpú, god of fertility and the ball game, and the beautiful Ixquic, daughter of Kuchumakik, one of the Lords of Xibalbá

One day, Hun-Hunahhpú and his twin Vucub-Hunahpú started playing in the ball game; as they made a lot of noise, the gods of Xibalbá got angry and Hun Camé and Vucub Camé, the main lords of the Underworld, challenged them to play in their lares. Of the sacred game the winners were those of Xibalbá.

Camazotz: the "Batman" of Mayan mythology

Ixbalanqué and Hunahpú took revenge, and went to the Underworld equipped only with blowguns. After successfully passing many tests and evils that are the object of the gods of the hereafter, and thanks to the advice and help of Camazotz, they spend the night in the House of Bats, Zotzilaha, “where the bats screamed, shouted and fluttered », inhabited by Zotzilaha Chimalman, the bat god.

This chilling place, was a frightening cave that was located in what is now Alta Verapaz, near Cobán in the Republic of Guatemala. It is in this cavern that Hunahpú loses his life when he is beheaded by one of the bat batsmen commanded by Zotzilaha.

And his head served as a ball in the last game. However, Ixbalanqué with the help of a rabbit regains his head and places it again with his twin.

And although the mentions of Camazotz in the antiquity are meager, in the modernity it enjoys certain popularity. His most recent appearance is in the Hellboy movie of this year, directed by Neil Marshall. And it’s also one of the monsters that Hellboy faces. This happens in the Hellboy in Mexico comic book of the year 2010.

Camazotz: the "Batman" of Mayan mythology

We also have the collectible card game called Myths and Legends in which this god appears as a “Beast” type card. His art shows a humanoid bat with a hellish face and was illustrated by Marcos Villaroel.

The description of the letter is as follows: «The bat of death slips in the deep, silent and accurate night, it is a spear thrown against life itself».

Then we have his representation in the video game Smite, a MOBA that focuses on gods as characters to choose from. And exactly Camazotz makes his appearance as a character to choose. In this game he is known as «The Deadly God of Bats».

Last but not least, we have a bust made by Christian Pacheco. A creation made for the exhibition of the 75th anniversary of Batman. This bust was one of the many shown, but it was the only one based on Camazotz. What’s your opinion about it? Leave your comment below.

Camazotz: the "Batman" of Mayan mythology

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Burial Site of Anglo-Saxon Prince May Be Greatest Discovery Ever in UK

When the discovery of a well-preserved royal gravesite is being compared to finding the tomb of King Tutankhamun, it’s obviously a big deal. When it’s in the UK and the remains may be from a 6th century Anglo-Saxon prince, it’s definitely a significant find. When the richly-appointed ancient royal tomb is discovered between an Aldi’s and a pub, it’s the height of irony. The tomb was once believed to belong to Sæberht of Essex, the first East Saxon king to have been converted to Christianity, but new evidence points to it belonging to his brother, Saexa.

“In 2003 archaeologists from MOLA (Museum of London Archaeology) excavated a small plot of land in Prittlewell, Essex, for Southend-on-Sea Borough Council. They were astounded to discover an intact Anglo-Saxon burial chamber.”

According to its website, when the team from MOLA opened what would have been a 13-foot (4 meters) square timber tomb about five feet high Prittlewell, near Southend, Essex, they found over 40 well-preserved artifacts, including a lyre (a harp-like instrument), gold coins, a gold belt buckle, drinking vessels, a sword trimmed with gold, a flagon from Syria and decorative glass beakers, all placed carefully in such a way that they knew it was the tomb of royalty. Unfortunately, what they didn’t find was the royalty – the only human remains in the tomb were tooth enamel fragments. (Photos of the artifacts here.)

(Wikipedia)

“The team left no stone unturned, using a range of techniques – from soil micromorphology and CT scans to Raman spectroscopy, scanning electron microscopy and mass spectrometry – in their quest to reconstruct and understand the chamber as it would have been on the day of the funeral.”

After the site was excavated and the artifacts taken to MOLA, 15 years of research at first pointed to the tomb belonging to Sæberht, who ruled over the Kingdom of Essex from 604 to 616 CE. Sæberht was the first East Saxon king to have been converted to Christianity and gold crosses found in the tomb which would have been placed over the eyes confirmed this was a Christian burial, making this the earliest known Christian tomb ever found in the UK. However, further study showed the tomb being built somewhere between 575 and 605 – too soon for Sæberht.

The artifacts have been stored and displayed at the Museum of London Archaeology, but now a number of them are being moved back to Southend to go on permanent display for the first time at the Central Museum. In conjunction with the move, MOLA archeologists are now stating that the tomb most likely belonged to Saexa, Sæberht’s brother who died earlier and never ruled Essex. Not much else is known about Saexa or how he died, according to Sophie Jackson, MOLA’s director of research and engagement.

“There’s a lot of debate about whether he was a fully-fledged hairy beast Saxon warrior, or younger. Had he died before he could really prove himself?”

Nonetheless, Jackson joins in with those who call the discovery between a pub and an Aldi’s “our equivalent of Tutankhamun’s tomb.” If you can’t make it to the museum, MOLA has an outstanding recreation of the tomb on its website.

“A fully-fledged hairy beast Saxon warrior”? That doesn’t sound much like Tut.

Source: Mysterious Universe

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Chunk of Stonehenge returned after 60 years

Image Credit: PD – Wiki
A little piece of Stonehenge is now back where it belongs. 

A piece of the enigmatic monument that has been missing for six decades has finally been returned.

The cylindrical fragment, which measures just over one meter long, was obtained by Robert Phillips of diamond cutting firm Van Moppes in 1958 when some of the cracked stones at the world-famous heritage site were being re-enforced with metal rods.

Phillips would end up taking the stone core with him when he emigrated to the United States but now, on the eve of his 90th birthday, he has finally asked for it to be returned to where it belongs.

“The last thing we ever expected was to get a call from someone in America telling us they had a piece of Stonehenge,” said Heather Sebire of English Heritage.

Given that it was taken from the middle of one of the stones, the missing piece is not as weathered as the monolith itself, making it ideal for study. Scientists hope that a detailed analysis could help to reveal more about precisely where the stones that make up Stonehenge originally came from.

“Studying the Stonehenge core’s ‘DNA’ could tell us more about where those enormous sarsen stones originated,” said Sebire.

Intriguingly, a total of three such cores were removed from the monument during the 1950s, meaning that two more of them are still out there in the hands of private owners.

Determining their whereabouts however is likely to prove a considerable challenge.

Source: Reuters

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