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A metal detecting enthusiast has fulfilled the dream of every amateur archaeologist after he unearthed a 2,000-year-old Roman ingot.

Jason Baker discovered the ‘very rare’ find – known as a pig – on a rally organised by the Southern Detectorists Club.

Mr Baker, who has only been metal detecting for 18 months, stumbled across the 2ft mining ingot on a farm in Wells, Somerset, with the ancient artefact inscribed with the name of emperor Marcus Aurelius Armeniacus.

The 31-year-old, from Plymouth, said the find of the ancient 38kg stone has ‘changed his life’.

He said: ‘Normally I find just a couple of Roman coins and that’s normally a good day, so to find something like this has just changed my life.

‘There’s been one sold – a smaller one – for £36,000 and I’ve heard a few reports of some fetching £250,000.’

Amateur detectorist Baker said there had been a ‘frenzy of finds’ so when his detector ‘went off’ he ‘knew it was something good’.

And according to Mr Baker, a member of staff from the Museum of Somerset in Taunton had been at the dig and said it was the ‘best thing he’d ever seen’.

He added: ‘When the Romans invaded Britain 2,500 years ago, they mined up the lead, cast it into big lead blocks and put the emperor’s name on it and sent it back to Rome.

‘Basically mine got lost on the process back to Rome,’ he said.

Sean McDonald, from the club, said the last Roman pig found was in the 18th century.

He added: ‘It is such a rare find it’s hard to put a price on it. A minimum would be £60,000 but it could go over that fivefold.

‘It doesn’t come under the Treasure Act because it’s made of lead – and not silver or gold – so Jason doesn’t have to split it 50:50 with the farmer.

‘But he is, because he is such a nice bloke.’

Source: Metal detector enthusiast unearths 2k-year-old Roman ingot worth up £250k on Somerset farm  | Daily Mail Online

Greek archaeologists believe they have discovered the lost tomb of Aristotle, the greatest philosopher in history.

Kostas Sismanidis said he was almost sure that a 2,400 year-old domed vault he unearthed in ancient Stagira was the burial place of the man credited with formalising logic.

Aristotle
Aristotle. Photograph: Alamy

“I have no hard proof, but strong indications lead me to almost certainty,” said Sismanidis.

Archaeologists have been working painstakingly at the site – the philosopher’s birthplace in 384 BC in the Greek region of Macedonia – for 20 years.

Sismanidis was due to give further details at a world congress in northern Greece of scholars specialised in Aristotle’s work. He said the architecture and location of the tomb, close to Stagira’s ancient square and with panoramic views, supported the belief that it was the philosopher’s final resting place.

Although few of Aristotle’s works have survived, two literary sources – a mainstay for archaeological discovery – suggest that the people of Stagira may have transferred his ashes from Chalcis on the island of Euboea (Chalkida on Evia today) where he is known to have died in 322 BC.

The vault, which has a square marble floor dating from Hellenistic times, appears to have been hurriedly constructed with an altar outside. Coins dated to Alexander the Great and ceramics from royal pottery were also found.

The claim was welcomed by Greece’s culture ministry; a senior aide to the minister, Aristides Baltas, said the academic community was awaiting further details.

“A team of independent archaeologists with no connection to a particular school or department have been working at the site,” the official told the Guardian. “What we know is that their excavation has been meticulous and we await further details with great anticipation.”

Plato’s star pupil, Aristotle was enrolled at the court of ancient Macedonia as the tutor of Alexander the Great. He thereafter travelled around the Aegean and Asia Minor before returning to Athens where he founded his own school, the Lyceum, in 335 BC.

Source: Is this Greek hilltop the 2,400-year-old burial place of Aristotle? | World news | The Guardian

For years Neanderthals were depicted as thuggish cavemen that scraped an existence on the cold barren plains of ice age Europe.

But a series of discoveries are now revealing Neanderthals in new light, suggesting they were skilled tool makers with adept hand eye coordination.

Now a ‘remarkable’ discovery of a ring-like stone structures in a cave in France suggests Neanderthals worked in teams to build complex structures.

Stone buildings are thought to have only emerged in modern humans with the development of farming around 10,000 years ago.

But the new study, which is published in the journal Nature, suggest that 176,000 years ago, Neanderthals were already constructing stone structures in a cave in south west France.

THE BRUNIQUEL CAVE

In 1992, a cave in south west France was discovered with around 400 structures made from broken stalagmites, about 1100 feet (336 metres) from the cave’s entrance.

Until recently, the structures in the Bruniquel cave had remained unstudied. Now a team of researchers at the University of Bordeaux have dated the structures to 176,000 years ago.

The presence of the mysterious structures so deep in the cave, along with marks caused by fire, shows the Neanderthals must have mastered how to work underground and use their own artificial light.

Archaeologists first discovered the ring of 400 broken pieces of stalagmites about 1,100 feet (336 metres) from the entrance of the Bruniquel cave in 1992.

They formed several rings – one of which was nearly 22 feet wide.

However, they remained unstudied until a team of researchers at the University of Bordeaux decided to look at them.

They have now dated the structures to 176,000 years ago.

They say the structures could have formed part of a refuge or had a symbolic meaning to the Neanderthals who built them.

‘We did not expect a Neanderthal attendance in the deep underground cave, so far from the entrance,’ Professor Jacques Jaubert, lead author of the study, told MailOnline.

He said the structures suggest the Neanderthals must have moved up to 2.5 tons (2.3 tonnes) of material to build them.

This, he said, would have required a remarkable amount of cooperation as the group worked together with a preconceived plan with leaders, advisers and manufacturers.

HOW WERE THE STRUCTURES BUILT

The Neanderthals must have moved 400 pieces, weighing up to 2.5 tons (2.3 tonnes).

It would have required the group to work together with a preconceived plan with leaders, advisers and manufacturers.

‘All this indicates a structured society,’ lead author Professor Jacques Jaubert told MailOnline.

Previous examples of human habitation reach 98 or 130 feet (30 or 40 metres) into the dark zones of caves from sites of this or even greater age in Africa.

‘But the Bruniquel occupation is around ten times deeper into the cave, and shows constructions as complex as some made by modern humans only 20 or 30,000 years ago,’ Professor Stringer said. This means they must have had some form of artificial light.

He said: ‘All this indicates a structured society – having a project, then to find the raw material, then tear [the] stalagmites. Then fragmenting, knapping [them] into regular elements.’

The researchers also found the remains of marks left by fire, which suggests the Neanderthals used artificial light to help them work so far underground.

The findings ‘would be significant for any period of time, but at around 175,000 years, these must have been made by early Neanderthals, the only known human inhabitants of Europe at this time,’ Professor Chris Stringer, anthropologist at the Natural History Museum, who was not involved in the research, told MailOnline.

Neanderthals lived in Eurasia from around 400,000 to 40,000 years ago, at which point anatomically modern humans settled in.

Previous examples of human habitation reach 98 or 130 feet (30 or 40 metres) into the dark zones of caves from sites of this or even greater age in Africa.

‘But the Bruniquel occupation is around ten times deeper into the cave, and shows constructions as complex as some made by modern humans only 20 or 30,000 years ago,’ Professor Stringer said.

‘This discovery provides clear evidence that Neanderthals had fully human capabilities in the planning and the construction of ‘stone’ structures, and that some of them penetrated deep into caves where artificial lighting would have been essential.’.

‘If the dates are correct then this is a hugely exciting development in our understanding of the lives of the Neanderthals,’ Dr Simon Underdown, senior lecturer in Biological Anthropology from Oxford Brookes University told MailOnline.

‘The considerable time and effort needed to build such a structure clearly indicates a shared plan and extensive cooperation.’

The complex Bruniquel structures have been dated to within a long cold glacial stage, and at that time the cave might have provided a temporary refuge from the cold.

‘It’s finally time to put away the old image of the Neanderthals as stupid and embrace them as a fully human species,’ added Dr Underdown.

But why the Neanderthals built the structures remains a mystery.

‘The purpose of the structures and concentrated combustion zones which are mostly on the broken stalagmites rather than on the ground remain enigmatic, but they demonstrate that some Neanderthals, at least, were as much ‘at home’ deep within the cave as at its entrance’ Professor Stringer said.

The researchers hope to excavate the site to find remains of the humans that may have constructed the structures.

‘The project this year [is] to make a test-pit inside the great structure, to survey the archaeological soil and, if it’s possible, to find some remains’ Professor Jaubert said.

If there is still-buried debris from occupation, it would help to determine whether this was a functional refuge or shelter, perhaps roofed using wood and skins, or something which had more symbolic or ritual significance.

Why has the sea ice cover surrounding Antarctica been increasing slightly, in sharp contrast to the drastic loss of sea ice occurring in the Arctic Ocean? A new NASA-led study finds the geology of Antarctica and the Southern Ocean are responsible.

A NASA/NOAA/university team led by Son Nghiem of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California, used satellite radar, sea surface temperature, land form and bathymetry (ocean depth) data to study the physical processes and properties affecting Antarctic sea ice. They found that two persistent geological factors — the topography of Antarctica and the depth of the ocean surrounding it — are influencing winds and ocean currents, respectively, to drive the formation and evolution of Antarctica’s sea ice cover and help sustain it.

“Our study provides strong evidence that the behavior of Antarctic sea ice is entirely consistent with the geophysical characteristics found in the southern polar region, which differ sharply from those present in the Arctic,” said Nghiem.

Antarctic sea ice cover is dominated by first-year (seasonal) sea ice. Each year, the sea ice reaches its maximum extent around the frozen continent in September and retreats to about 17 percent of that extent in February. Since the late 1970s, its extent has been relatively stable, increasing just slightly; however, regional differences are observed.

Over the years, scientists have floated various hypotheses to explain the behavior of Antarctic sea ice, particularly in light of observed global temperature increases. Are changes in the ozone hole involved? Could fresh meltwater from Antarctic ice shelves be making the ocean surface less salty and more conducive to ice formation, since salt inhibits freezing? Are increases in the strength of Antarctic winds causing the ice to thicken? Something is protecting Antarctic sea ice, but a definitive answer has remained elusive.

To tackle this cryospheric conundrum, Nghiem and his team adopted a novel approach. They analyzed radar data from NASA’s QuikScat satellite from 1999 to 2009 to trace the paths of Antarctic sea ice movements and map its different types. They focused on the 2008 growth season, a year of exceptional seasonal variability in Antarctic sea ice coverage.

Their analyses revealed that as sea ice forms and builds up early in the sea ice growth season, it gets pushed offshore and northward by winds, forming a protective shield of older, thicker ice that circulates around the continent. The persistent winds, which flow downslope off the continent and are shaped by Antarctica’s topography, pile ice up against the massive ice shield, enhancing its thickness. This band of ice, which varies in width from roughly 62 to 620 miles (100 to 1,000 kilometers), encapsulates and protects younger, thinner ice in the ice pack behind it from being reduced by winds and waves.

The team also used QuikScat radar data to classify the different types of Antarctic sea ice. Older, thicker sea ice returns a stronger radar signal than younger, thinner ice does. They found the sea ice within the protective shield was older and rougher (due to longer exposure to wind and waves), and thicker (due to more ice growth and snow accumulation). As the sea ice cover expands and ice drifts away from the continent, areas of open water form behind it on the sea surface, creating “ice factories” conducive to rapid sea ice growth.

To address the question of how the Southern Ocean maintains this great sea ice shield, the team combined sea surface temperature data from multiple satellites with a recently available bathymetric chart of the depth of the world’s oceans. Sea surface temperature data reveal that at the peak of ice growth season, the boundary of the ice shield remains behind a 30-degree Fahrenheit (-1 degree Celsius) temperature line surrounding Antarctica. This temperature line corresponds with the southern Antarctic Circumpolar Current front, a boundary that separates the circulation of cold and warm waters around Antarctica. The team theorized that the location of this front follows the underwater bathymetry.

When they plotted the bathymetric data against the ocean temperatures, the pieces fit together like a jigsaw puzzle. Pronounced seafloor features strongly guide the ocean current and correspond closely with observed regional Antarctic sea ice patterns. For example, the current stays near Bouvet Island, located 1,000 miles (1,600 kilometers) from the nearest land, where three tectonic plates join to form seafloor ridges. Off the coast of East Antarctica, the -1 degree Celsius sea surface temperature lines closely bundle together as they cross the Kerguelen Plateau (a submerged microcontinent that broke out of the ancient Gondwana supercontinent), through a deep channel called the Fawn Trough. But those lines spread apart over adjacent deep ocean basins, where seafloor features are not pronounced. Off the West Antarctica coast, the deep, smooth seafloor loses its grip over the current, allowing sea ice extent to decrease and resulting in large year-to-year variations.

Study results are published in the journal Remote Sensing of Environment. Other participating institutions include the Joint Institute for Regional Earth System Science and Engineering at UCLA; the Applied Physics Laboratory at the University of Washington in Seattle; and the U.S. National/Naval Ice Center, NOAA Satellite Operations Facility in Suitland, Maryland. Additional funding was provided by the National Science Foundation.

NASA uses the vantage point of space to increase our understanding of our home planet, improve lives and safeguard our future. NASA develops new ways to observe and study Earth’s interconnected natural systems with long-term data records. The agency freely shares this unique knowledge and works with institutions around the world to gain new insights into how our planet is changing.

Source: News | Study Helps Explain Sea Ice Differences at Earth’s Poles

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