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Medieval Soldier Found With His Weapons at The Bottom of a Lithuanian Lake

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More than 500 years ago, a medieval soldier’s dead body settled at the bottom of a Lithuanian lake, and for centuries it lay hidden beneath the mud. Now, those submerged remains have finally been found.

 

The skeleton was discovered during an underwater inspection of the old Dubingiai bridge in eastern Lithuania’s Lake Asveja.

Though the skeleton lay under a layer of sand and silt, the scene was not a burial, said archaeologist Elena Pranckėnaitė, a researcher with Klaipėda University in Klaipėda, Lithuania, according to the Baltic News Service (BNS).

Rather, water currents likely deposited sediments that covered the remains over time.



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A Record Number of People in The US Are Currently Hospitalised With COVID-19

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More people than ever are currently hospitalized in the US due to the coronavirus, and a record of 150,526 new cases were reported on Thursday, according to data from The COVID Tracking Project.

 

This week alone, one in 378 US residents has tested positive for COVID-19, the group said.

Over 1,100 new deaths were also reported on November 12. Over the last week, an average of 1,052 people died each day from COVID-19.

This number of people currently hospitalized, as reported by The COVID Tracking Project, 67,096, is nearly double what it was two weeks ago.

“The current national case surge has been underway for nine weeks,” The COVID Tracking Project said in a blog post explaining the new data, “hospitalizations have risen for seven weeks, and deaths have risen for five.”

Cases are also increasing at the fastest rate since the pandemic began, and not just because there is more testing.

Indeed, the number of cases reported this week is up 41 percent from last, compared to a 13 percent increase in new tests.

Over 234,000 people have now died from the coronavirus. By December 5, that number could be as high as 282,000, according to an analysis by the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention.

This article was originally published by Business Insider.

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Archaeologists Look Inside Egyptian Mummies First Found in 1615 Without Opening Them

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Two ancient mummies discovered in a rock-cut tomb in Egypt more than 400 years ago are finally spilling their secrets, now that scientists have CT scanned their remains, a new study finds.

 

Both mummies, as well as a third on display in Egypt, represent the only known surviving ‘stucco-shrouded portrait mummies’, from Saqqara, an ancient Egyptian necropolis.

Unlike other mummies, who were buried in coffins, these individuals were placed on wooden boards, wrapped in a textile and a “beautiful mummy shroud”, and decorated with 3D plaster, gold and a whole-body portrait, said study lead researcher Stephanie Zesch, a physical anthropologist and Egyptologist at the German Mummy Project at Reiss Engelhorn Museum in Mannheim, Germany.

mummy image 2The CT scan showed the beads from the necklace around the woman’s neck and body. (Zesch et al., PLOS One, 2020)

Now, CT (computed tomography) scans reveal that at least one of these three stucco-shrouded portrait mummies was buried with organs (even the brain) and that the two females were interred with beautiful necklaces, the researchers found.

The CT scans also showed that after the deaths of these individuals – a man, woman and teenage girl dating to the late Roman period (30 BCE to CE 395) – their mummies were interred with artifacts likely thought useful in the afterlife, including coins that were possibly meant to pay Charon, the Roman and Greek deity thought to carry souls across the River Styx.

 

The CT scans also revealed several medical problems, including arthritis in the woman.

“The examination of the individuals yielded that they died at rather young ages … however, the cause of death of the individuals could not be determined,” Zesch told Live Science.

Long journey

Two of these mummies have travelled far and wide. In 1615, Pietro Della Valle (1586−1652), an Italian composer, took a pilgrimage to the Holy Land and ended up traveling through Egypt.

He learned about two stucco-shrouded portrait mummies – a man and woman – discovered by locals in Saqqara. Della Valle acquired these mummies and brought them to Rome, making them the “earliest examples of portrait mummies to have become known in Europe,” the researchers wrote in the study.

After passing through several owners, and a little worse for wear, the mummies ended up in the Dresden State Art Collections in Germany, where they were X-rayed in the late 1980s. However, the CT scan revealed much more about their insides.

mummy image 3The teenager’s mummy portrait. (Zesch et al., PLOS One, 2020)

For instance, the CT scan revealed that the male died between the ages of 25 and 30. He stood about 5’4″ inches (163 centimeters) tall, and had two unerupted permanent teeth and several cavities.

Some of his bones were broken and jumbled, probably because someone unwrapped him shortly after the mummy’s discovery, the researchers wrote in the study. 

 

While the man’s brain was not preserved, there’s no evidence it was removed through his nose. Nor were many embalming substances used. Instead, he was wrapped up and painted.

Two metal objects found during the CT scan are likely seals from the mummification workshop that handled his remains, Zesch said.

mummy image 4The teenager’s shrunken brain. (Zesch et al., PLOS One, 2020)

The woman’s brain wasn’t preserved either, but the teenager’s was – it had shrunk, but the cerebrum and brainstem were still identifiable – and the teenager’s other internal organs were also present. 

“We are quite sure there was no removing the brain or the internal organs” from these mummies, Zesch said.

“It’s very probable that those mummies were only preserved because of a kind of dehydration with the use of [the desiccation mixture] natron, but there is not a huge amount of embalming liquids.”

The woman, who died between the ages of 30 and 40, stood about 4’11” (151 cm) tall. She had advanced arthritis in her left knee. The teenager, who wore a hairpin, according to the CT scan, died between the ages of 17 and 19, and stood about 5’1″ (156 cm) tall.

 

She had a benign tumor in her spine known as a vertebral hemangioma, which is more common in people over 40, the researchers said. 

Both women were buried with multiple necklaces. It’s exciting to see these necklaces, but it’s not unexpected, Zesch said. “Because of these very precious shrouds, we are sure that those individuals have to be members of the higher socioeconomic class,” meaning that they could have easily afforded jewellery, Zesch said. 

Zesch noted that she studied the three mummies with a multidisciplinary team from the German Mummy Project, the Dresden State Art Collections, the Institute for Mummy Studies at Eurac Research in Bolzano, Italy and the American-Egyptian Horus Study Group.

Their work informed a now-live interactive exhibit of the male and female mummy in Dresden. The teenager’s mummy is on display at the Museum of Egyptian Antiquities, Cairo, Egypt.

The study was published online November 4 in the journal PLOS One

This article was originally published by Live Science. Read the original article here.

 



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It’s Official. The World Has Surpassed 50 Million Confirmed Coronavirus Cases

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There are over 50 million confirmed coronavirus cases worldwide, according to the latest data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.

With about 10 million cases, the United States is the country with the most confirmed coronavirus cases, followed immediately by India and Brazil. At least 230,000 people have died from the disease in the United States.

 

The World Health Organisation declared the coronavirus a pandemic on March 11.

The coronavirus has killed more Americans than every war US troops have died in since 1945 combined, Business Insider’s John Haltiwanger reported. The leading cause of death for Americans, heart disease, typically kills fewer than 650,000 people a year in the US.

The pandemic has created uncertainty and instability, leading to roiled marketsshuttering many small businesses nationwide, and forcing the world to adapt to a new normal.

For nearly nine months, people have been learning to live under once unfamiliar laws and recommendations from health officials. Quarantining, practicing social distancing, and wearing masks have become the relative norm in most countries.

But as the numbers of confirmed coronavirus cases and deaths continue to rise, health officials say practices will remain the new norm well into 2021 and possibly 2022.

Meanwhile, scientists and pharmaceutical companies have been racing to create a vaccine to prevent COVID-19.

But it will take more time to release safe and effective shots – and even longer to inoculate enough of the global population to achieve herd immunity.

This article was originally published by Business Insider.

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Mysterious Mass Elephant Die-Off in Botswana Was Caused by Cyanobacteria Poisoning

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Hundreds of elephants that died mysteriously in Botswana’s famed Okavango Delta succumbed to cyanobacteria poisoning, the wildlife department revealed on Monday.

The landlocked southern African country boasts the world’s largest elephant population, estimated at around 130,000.

 

More than 300 of the pachyderms have mysteriously died since March, with their intact tusks ruling out the hypothesis that they were killed by poachers.

“The deaths were caused by poisoning due to cyanobacteria which was growing in pans” or watering holes, the principal veterinary officer of the Department of Wildlife and National Parks, Mmadi Reuben, told reporters.

Reuben said the deaths had “stopped towards the end of June 2020, coinciding with the drying of pans.”

A first report of unusual elephant deaths on April 25 identified cases near Seronga village, and numbers began escalating the following month.

According to the wildlife authorities around 330 animals have died and blood tests were consistent with the finding that a species of cyanobacteria that produces neurotoxins was the cause.

Tests were conducted at specialist laboratories in South Africa, Canada, Zimbabwe, and the United States.

Officials have ruled out anthrax or human involvement such as poaching, according to Cyril Taolo, deputy director of Department of Wildlife and National Parks.

The government said it was continuing studies into the occurrence of the bacteria.

In the winter, elephants hydrate themselves mainly by eating roots and bark, especially of the baobab tree.

© Agence France-Presse

 



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Protector of Brazil’s Indigenous Groups Fatally Shot With Arrow by Isolated Tribe

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A leading expert on indigenous peoples in Brazil was shot dead with an arrow apparently fired by a member of an isolated tribe in the Amazon rainforest, officials and a journalist in the region said Thursday.

 

Rieli Franciscato, 56, the head of a program to protect indigenous groups that have little or no contact with the outside world, died Wednesday in the Seringueiras region, a remote municipality in the northern state of Rondonia, said a statement from the Brazilian government’s indigenous affairs office, FUNAI, where he worked.

FUNAI declined to say how he died.

But witnesses said he was shot with an arrow while monitoring recent appearances by a tribe known as the “Cautario River isolated group,” according to a photojournalist in the region, Gabriel Uchida.

Rieli was accompanied by a police patrol. When the party came under fire with arrows, they ran to take shelter behind a vehicle, but Rieli was hit in the chest, witnesses said.

He was taken to the nearest hospital, but died soon after.

The tribe “are known as a peaceful group,” Uchida told AFP in an email.

“The last time they appeared in the region was in June… It was a larger group, very peaceful. They even left presents at someone’s house,” he said.

“This time, there were just five armed men – a war party. That means something must have happened to make them seek ‘revenge’.”

 

Such groups have sometimes lashed out violently when illegal miners or poachers encroach on their land.

Uchida said there were some reports of such activity in the region.

Isolated tribes’ first contacts with the outside world have often been disastrous in the past, marred by deadly violence, devastating outbreaks of disease, and the breakdown of their social structures.

Rieli led an operation at FUNAI called the Uru Eu Wau Wau Ethno-Environmental Protection Front, whose mission was to protect isolated groups.

The Brazilian Amazon is home to at least 100 isolated tribes, more than anywhere else in the world, according to indigenous rights group Survival International.

“Rieli dedicated his life to the indigenous cause. He had more than three decades of service, and leaves an immense legacy for the protection of these peoples,” said FUNAI official Ricardo Lopes Dias.

© Agence France-Presse

 



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We Finally Have Another Life-Saving Medication For The Sickest COVID-19 Patients

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Commonly available anti-inflammatory drugs have been found to reduce the mortality rate of the sickest COVID-19 patients by 20 percent, researchers said on Thursday.

Professor Anthony Gordon, of Imperial College London, was part of a British team investigating the effectiveness of hydrocortisone on people on ventilators in intensive care.

 

The results of the UK study were compared with those of six others around the world also looking at whether similar corticosteroid drugs could be used in treatment.

“Taking the data from all the seven trials combined, in the patients who weren’t treated with steroids, about 40 percent died from this severe COVID-19,” Gordon told AFP.

“In the groups that were given the various steroids, 32 percent, roughly, died, so that’s a 20 percent reduction in the risk…

“That means if you treat 100 patients giving them steroids, you would expect to save eight lives, which is really impressive to see a result like that.”

The head of Britain’s state-run National Health Service in England, Simon Stevens, called it a “further weapon in the armoury in the worldwide fight against COVID-19”.

“Just as we did with dexamethasone, the NHS will now take immediate action to ensure that patients who could benefit from treatment with hydrocortisone do so,” he added.

Gordon, who combines research with work as a hospital intensive care specialist, said the results were “clear evidence” that steroids help the most severely ill patients.

 

But he stressed that the steroids, which are often found in over-the-counter medications, should not be used for prevention of COVID-19 or as a home remedy for viral infections.

Some 403 patients at 88 hospitals in the UK study received hydrocortisone via an intravenous drip rather than in pill form, he said.

The similar effectiveness of different corticosteroids could help in the treatment of the disease around the world, alleviating pressure on supply chains, he added.

“Clinicians may be more familiar using one or more of these drugs… Having this choice, a greater drug supply, is good news.”

The results of a UK trial of dexamethasone were published in July, showing that mortality rates of patients with COVID-19 were reduced by just under a third.

Among those on ventilators, the death rate for patients on the anti-inflammatory drug was 29.3 percent compared with 41.4 percent for those without.

Gordon said that although the latest results were “consistent” and “encouraging”, further treatments were still needed for the coronavirus.

© Agence France-Presse

 



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Puppy Preserved in Permafrost Ate a Chunk of One of Earth’s Last Woolly Rhinos

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Just before a tiny pup died during the last ice age, it ate a piece of meat from one of Earth’s last woolly rhinos. 

Researchers made this discovery while doing a necropsy (an animal autopsy) on the mummified remains of the ice age puppy. After finding an undigested slab of skin with yellow fur in the puppy’s stomach, researchers initially thought the puppy had chewed off a hunk of cave lion meat for its last meal. 

 

But a DNA analysis of the slab revealed that it wasn’t a cave lion (Panthera spelaea), but a woolly rhinoceros (Coelodonta antiquitatis), which went extinct around 14,000 years ago, right about the time that this pup had its last meal.

That means this puppy ate one of the last woolly rhinos to ever exist, said Edana Lord, a doctoral student at the Centre for Palaeogenetics in Sweden, a joint venture between Stockholm University and the Swedish Museum of Natural History. Lord co-authored a study published August 13 in the journal Current Biology on the extinction of the woolly rhinos.

The mummified puppy was discovered in Tumat, a rural locality in northeastern Siberia, in 2011. An analysis revealed that the puppy was likely between 3 and 9 months old when it died, but it’s unclear whether the pup was a dog or a wolf, Lord noted, a mystery that also surrounds an 18,000-year-old puppy found in Siberia in 2018, Live Science previously reported

“I think it falls around that critical point for the dog/wolf domestication,” she told Live Science, adding that a research team in Copenhagen is trying to decipher whether the Tumat pup was domesticated or not. 

 

Radiocarbon dating revealed that the Tumat puppy lived about 14,000 years ago. Researchers also radiocarbon dated the woolly rhino slab, to rule out the possibility that the rhino hadn’t died earlier and been preserved in Siberia’s permafrost, only to be discovered by the puppy at a later date.

It’s possible “that this puppy may have been one of a scavenging pack, and that the wolves either took down the rhino, or were looking for food and came across a rhino carcass,” Lord noted. 

If the puppy was domesticated, it’s possible that it was living with humans, who may have shared the rhino meal with the pup, she said. Soon after the puppy ate the woolly rhino, it died, although it’s anyone’s guess how.

The researchers were able to rule out one scenario, though; “It doesn’t look like it’s been squashed,” before it was preserved as a mummy in the cold permafrost, Lord said.

Despite this “rhino dinner,” predators probably didn’t cause the extinction of the woolly rhino, according to Lord’s new research. Instead, the culprit was the rapidly warming climate at the end of the last ice age, she and her colleagues found.

 

When the team sequenced a woolly rhinoceros nuclear genome and 14 mitochondrial genomes (DNA passed down the maternal line) – including the specimen found in the pup’s belly – they found that the woolly rhino population was stable and diverse up until a few thousands years before the herbivores went extinct.

This genetic diversity indicates that there wasn’t inbreeding, a problem that plagued the dwarf woolly mammoths on Wrangel Island off the northern coast of Russia about 4,000 years ago. 

Because of the genetic diversity, as well as “the association of the extinction with the Bølling-Allerød interstadial, a very abrupt warming period [about 14,700 to 12,900 years ago], we suggest that the woolly rhinoceros went extinct due to climate change,” Lord said.

The DNA analyses also revealed that the woolly rhinoceros had genetic mutations that helped it adapt to cold weather.

One such mutation made the woolly creature less sensitive to feeling the cold, “which means that they would have been able to survive better in the more extreme cold,” Lord said. “Because of these genomic adaptations to Arctic climate, they probably weren’t well adapted to deal with the warming climate.”

Moreover, the the rhinos were accustomed to foraging in the dry grasslands, but the warming climate during the Bølling-Allerød interstadial changed their environment to a snowy, “wooded shrubby habitat,” which didn’t provide the “favorite food of the rhinos,” Lord said. 

Puppies, on the other hand, will eat nearly anything, from woolly rhinos to shoes, which might explain their adaptability.

Originally published on Live Science.

 



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New X-Ray Imaging Has Revealed What’s Inside Ancient Egyptian Animal Mummies

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The lives and deaths of animals that lived more than 2,000 years ago are coming to light. A cat, a snake, and a bird that were mummified in ancient Egypt have undergone non-invasive, high-resolution 3D X-ray scans, helping us to understand how they were kept, and the complex mummification procedures practised thousands of years ago.

 

The new work can also help us to understand the relationships ancient Egyptians had with animals, and the roles those animals played in their complex spiritual lives.

Actually, ancient Egyptians mummified a lot of animals. It was a whole industry. Millions of mummified animals have been found, everything from scarabs, to puppies, to ibises, to crocodiles.

Some animal mummies were, of course, beloved pets buried with their owners. And some were included in human burials as food for the afterlife. Some were sacred animals in their own right, worshipped in their lifetime and mummified after death.

But the vast majority of mummified animals were likely votive offerings – given to the gods to seek favour, or lend weight to a prayer. Some were captured wild, but evidence also suggests that many animals were bred and reared on ‘mummy farms’ for this express purpose, which then possibly sold their wares to those wishing for extra favour from the gods.

animal mummiesFrom left to right, the mummified snake, cat, and bird. (Swansea University)

Although these tiny mummies can reveal a lot about these ancient practices, studying them isn’t easy, especially if you don’t want to damage the specimen.

It wasn’t always this way – in Victorian England, at the height of Egyptomania, surgeon Thomas Pettigrew delighted morbidly curious audiences with his mummy unrollings – unwrapping and performing autopsies on corpses thousands of years dead.

 

Now, the scientific community rightfully views such wanton destruction of archaeologically important and culturally invaluable objects as anathema, and we use X-ray imaging technology to peer inside instead.

This approach isn’t perfect, either – conventional radiography is two-dimensional, which makes it more difficult to understand the three-dimensional shape of the mummified remains; medical CT scans, which are in three dimensions and solve this problem, are relatively low resolution.

But micro-CT scans, which generate images at resolutions much higher than medical CT scans, are now emerging as a tool for studying mummies. This is what a team of researchers used to look inside three mummies of different sizes and shapes from the Egypt Centre collection at Swansea University in the UK.

“Using micro CT we can effectively carry out a post-mortem on these animals, more than 2,000 years after they died in ancient Egypt,” said materials scientist Richard Johnston of Swansea University.

“With a resolution up to 100 times higher than a medical CT scan, we were able to piece together new evidence of how they lived and died, revealing the conditions they were kept in, and possible causes of death.”

The three animals were a cat, a bird, and a snake.

The cat, as scans revealed, was most likely a domesticated kitten (Felis catus) – less than five months old when it died, as evidenced by teeth in the jawbone that had not yet erupted. And it had a broken neck – something that is often found in the remains of cats thought to have been bred for mummification.

It’s not clear if this fracture was the cause of death, or if the damage occurred post mortem as the kitten was being posed with its head upright.

Identifying the bird was a little trickier. As the team found by measuring its bones, it most closely resembles a Eurasian kestrel (Falco tinnunculus), and it’s unclear how it died – it shows none of the signs of strangulation or a broken neck.

The snake’s remains, by contrast, were very revealing. It was a juvenile Egyptian cobra (Naja haje), and its dislocated vertebrae suggest that it died after being caught by the tail and ‘whipped’ – supported by extensive damage to the skull.

Sadly, the snake also seems to have lived an uncomfortable life. Its kidneys were calcified, which is consistent with renal disease, and seen in modern snakes who are kept as pets in poor conditions with insufficient water. The post-mortem doesn’t paint a particularly flattering picture of its caretakers, whoever they were.

 

In addition, its fangs were missing. Egyptian cobras are venomous, so it’s possible that the fangs were removed from the dead snake to protect the embalmer.

All this reveals a rather grim picture of the ways ancient Egyptians treated the animals they offered up to the gods. But the research also demonstrates how micro-CT can reveal fine details that we otherwise might have missed.

“This collaboration between engineers, archaeologists, biologists, and Egyptologists shows the value of researchers from different subjects working together,” said Swansea University Egypt Centre curator Carolyn Graves-Brown.

“Our findings have uncovered new insights into animal mummification, religion and human-animal relationships in ancient Egypt.”

The research has been published in Scientific Reports.

 



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Mysterious Cause of Hundreds of Elephant Deaths in Botswana Finally Comes Into Focus

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Hundreds of elephants that died mysteriously in Botswana’s famed Okavango Delta probably succumbed to natural toxins, the wildlife department said Friday.

​The landlocked southern African country has the world’s largest elephant population, estimated to be around 130,000. Around 300 of them have been found dying since March.

 

​Authorities have so far ruled out anthrax, as well as poaching, as the tusks were found intact.

​Preliminary tests conducted in various countries far have not been fully conclusive and more are being carried out, Wildlife and Parks Department boss Cyril Taolo told AFP in a phone interview.

​”But based on some of the preliminary results that we have received, we are looking at naturally-occurring toxins as the potential cause,” he said.

​”To date we have not established the conclusion as to what is the cause of the mortality”.

​He explained that some bacteria can naturally produce poison, particularly in stagnant water.

​Government has so far established that 281 elephants died, although independent conservationists say more than 350.

​The deaths were first flagged by a wildlife conservation charity, Elephants Without Borders (EWB), whose confidential report referring to the 356 dead elephants was leaked to the media early in July.

​EWB suspected elephants had been dying in the area for about three months, and mortality was not restricted to age or gender.

​Several live elephants appeared weak, lethargic and emaciated, with some showing signs of disorientation, difficulty in walking or limping, EWB said.

​Tests are being conducted at specialist labs in South Africa, Canada, Zimbabwe and the US.

© Agence France-Presse

 



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