The 10-foot owl, carved from a single piece of southern hard pine was unearthed in 1955. It once guarded the shore of the 1,600-acre island, which is now a state park. Hontoon Island has a long history of indigenous habitation going back thousands of years. Similar effigies of an otter and a pelican were also found there. Researchers disagree on whether the totem was carved by the Mayaca tribe or the Timucuan indians, both of whom are now extinct.
A series of volcanic eruptions starting 17.5 million years ago formed the Columbia River Basalt Group, a complex of rock formations that was created over a few million years as lava erupted from fissures in the ground and seeped over the landscape. The eruptions deposited about 10,000 cubic miles of rock and likely released enough sulfur gas to cool the whole planet down.
Known as a polynya, this year’s hole was about 30,000 square miles at its largest, making it the biggest polynya observed in Antarctica’s Weddell Sea since the 1970s.
Of all the oddities in St. Augustine, Florida, the Moorish Alhambra palace-inspired Villa Zorayda Museum may possess the oddest. Legend holds that a mummified foot wrapped in a rug was acquired from a pyramid in Egypt sometime prior to 1913. The rug itself, which depicts a large stylized feline much like an African wildcat is on display inside the castle. Experts determined the textile to be over 2,400 years old, making it arguably one of the oldest rugs in the world. An examination of the rug confirmed that it is woven entirely from cat hair.
Sorghum was domesticated from its wild ancestor more than 5,000 years ago, according to archaeological evidence uncovered by University College London archaeologists in Sudan.
At the site of an ancient Chester’s Fort in England, an artist has managed to honour history, bringing back the ghosts from the past through an installation that plays with sound and renewable energy. Called Hadrian’s Cavalry 360°, the piece is a large circle inside which visitors can stand and hear the simulated sound of 500 horses galloping, as an ode to the cavalry stationed at Hadrian’s Wall in the 2nd century. Article contains a short YouTube video of the unique device in action.
Barely four miles off the Swedish coast, in the Baltic Sea, the rocky island of Öland was once witness to a gruesome mass murder. Archaeologists uncovered skeleton after skeleton there—bodies that had initially been left unburied. Experts estimate that this mysterious massacre at Sandby borg, one of the island’s 15 ancient forts, took place in the 5th century. The fort’s 15 foot tall ramparts, which once protected 53 houses and their inhabitants, were no match for whichever assailants stormed the settlement. Now, a discovery of two gold rings and a coin at the site may hint at the motive behind what appears to have been a particularly bloody personal attack.
A solar event in September sparked a global aurora on the Red Planet more than 25 times brighter than any previously seen by NASA’s MAVEN (Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution) spacecraft. An aurora on Mars can envelope the entire planet because Mars has no strong magnetic field like Earth’s to concentrate the aurora near polar regions.
An ancient 4,800 year old Great Basin Bristlecone Pine known as the Methuselah Tree grows high in the White Mountains of eastern California. Named for the Biblical figure that lived for 969 years, the Methuselah Tree grows in Inyo National Forest’s “Forest of Ancients.” The exact location of Methuselah is kept secret to protect it against vandalism. Once thought to be the oldest living tree in the world, it was germinated before the Egyptian Pyramids were built.
What most people picture when they think of Los Angeles are its iconic palm trees. The non-native trees once flourished, but they’re now facing new challenges: climate change, fungus, and bugs. Officials plan to replace them with native trees that provide more shade and require less special care.
Inside a simple cabin-like building near Ithaca, New York, Graham Ottoson, a midwife turned artist, creates art from gourds. The self-proclaimed “Gourd Lady” began by making gourd lamps. Her passion only grew. Visitors can stroll through the gourd trellis, see “pepos” (tiny fuzzy baby gourds), and learn about the art and science of gourd cultivation.
Around 8,000 years ago, in the woodlands of what is now the eastern United States, hunter-gatherers began to make stone objects with holes drilled in them that have no parallel in any other prehistoric society. Today archaeologists call these highly polished and sometimes elaborate objects “bannerstones.” Just why they were made only during the so-called Archaic period, which ended around 3,000 years ago, has been debated by archaeologists for more than a hundred years.
Athrotaxis selaginoides, known as King Billy or King William pines, are endemic to Tasmania. The trees, which are actually conifers but not pines, have been used in an eight year study by an international research team to understand the environmental history of Australia. Core sample tree ring chronology shows the growth rate of the ancient trees, which can be used to interpret the climate and other environmental influences in Tasmania.
Meaning southern lights in palawa kani, the language of Tasmanian Aboriginal people, the name Nuyina was suggested for the newest icebreaker ship still under construction by students near Perth in Western Australia. The name continues a tradition of naming Australia’s Antarctic ships after the evocative atmospheric phenomenon that produces curtains of colourful weaving lights over the frozen continent.
Mars may be an arid wasteland today, but that wasn’t always the case – and scientists have discovered evidence that a huge sea existed on southern Mars some 3.7 billion years ago, filled with hot springs pumping out water packed with minerals. Experts think this hydrothermal undersea activity matches what was happening on Earth at the same time, potentially giving us clues about how life began on our own planet.
The postholes of a 4,000 year old Late Neolithic dwelling have been uncovered at a construction site in Denmark, according to a report in The Copenhagen Post. Found on the northern island of Zealand, the outline of soil stains indicates the house measured nearly 150 feet long and more than 20 feet wide. It had two aisles where archaeologists think a wealthy family lived with their farmhands and livestock.