Even as the King Tut exhibit continues its run here at the Science Museum of Minnesota, headlines around the world continue to keep Egyptology at the forefront of people's attention, particularly in light of the recent political turmoil in Egypt.
Here's an interesting story of recent lost and found about one of the trumpets found in Tutankhamun's burial chamber.
And the head of Egyptian archaeology efforts, Zahi Hawass, finds himself entangled with post-revolution fallout with his connections to former deposed president Hosni Mubarak and other controversies. Here are a couple reports from the Washington Post and CNN.
The political turmoil in Egypt this past weekend spilled into the famous Egyptian Museum with reports that some ancient artifacts being damaged or stolen. But concerned citizens helped to secure the building and Army troops are now on the scene protecting the site. Here's a good report on the situation from NBC News.
Since their discovery, controversy has swirled around the Dead Sea Scrolls. A new wrinkle to that controversy popped up this week with a conviction of a man accused of identity theft, posing as other people in online discussions about the scrolls.
Courtesy Photo by Heather Rousseau ©Denver Museum of Nature and ScienceI remember as a kid riding across North Dakota and marveling at the giant bison we passed on a hilltop near Jamestown. I don’t remember if we stopped to see it up close, but it is billed as the World’s Largest Buffalo, and according to records is 46 feet long and stands 26 feet tall at the shoulders. I do remember having a real sense of its massive size even from the highway. It was big.
Now, paleontologists from the Denver Museum of Nature & Science have announced the discovery of a prehistoric bison that could give the Jamestown sculpture a run for its money. When a horn core of the bison was first uncovered, paleontologist Ian Miller thought it was the tusk of a mammoth or mastodon. A second horn core, and the rest of the skull were soon located, and when all the pieces were put together, it made for a very large bison, one with horns that spanned more than 6 feet across! That makes the Ice Age giant twice as large as the American buffalo (Bison bison) seen today in places like Yellowstone National Park.
The gigantic skull was discovered near Snowmass Village in Colorado, in an excavation that has produced numerous fossils of prehistoric beasts that once roamed the area, including mammoths and a giant ground sloth. The age of the former lakebed deposits are thought to be between 12,000 and 15,000 years old.
Science Buzz has been a spot of ongoing debates about the return of ancient artifacts to their home countries. I don't know if New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art has followed the discussion here, but it announced it will return 19 small artifacts from its collections that had been originally found in the tomb of King Tut. Egypt archaeology officials will receive the items in 2011 after they are displayed for a short time here in the U.S. This link to Zahi Hawass's website includes photos of some of the items to be returned.
The Science Museum's mummy will be taking a little trip to Children's Hospital tomorrow afternoon to undergo a CT scan. We hope to come away from the scan with a 3D model of the mummy’s inner workings and new clues that reveal more details about his life, a more precise age and cause of death. The results will be developed into new interpretative tools that will make their debut in the months leading up to the opening of the King Tut exhibition.
Thanks to the cooperation of Ed Fleming, our collections services staff and the staff at Children's, we've been granted permission to invite media to photograph the mummy as he's prepped for scanning tomorrow. He's become quite a sensation already, with more to come:
WCCO-AM will also be airing an interview with Ed Fleming about the project during news breaks today and tomorrow.
While you've got just four days left to see real samples of the Dead Sea Scrolls here at the Science Museum of Minnesota, in a few months you'll be able to view many of them in the comfort of your own home, local library or anywhere with Internet access. Google and the Israeli Antiquities Authority announced this week that they are working together to put digitized versions of 900 sections of scrolls on the net in the coming months. Here's the full story and a photo slide show about the process.
Courtesy Mark RyanThe bone of a single pinky finger found in a cave in southern Siberia may indicate a new branch in the human family tree. The find could show that besides Neanderthals and Homo sapiens, a third lineage of humans may have shared the ancient landscape of prehistoric Russia.
The piece of finger was found in Denisova cave located in Russia’s Altai mountains by scientists from the Russian Academy of Science. The bone was recovered from sediment layers that have also yielded signs of Neanderthals (Homo neanderthalensis) and modern humans (Homo sapiens). Radiocarbon dating set the age of the layers between 48,000 and 30,000 years old.
Scientists from Germany’s Max Planck Institute and others sequenced 16,569 base pairs of the finger bone’s mitochondrial DNA genome, and the results indicate the new hominen shared a common ancestor with both neanderthals and ancient modern humans sometime around a million years ago. The research team included Michael Shunkov and Anatoli Derevianko, the two Russian archaeologists who discovered the bone in 2008. The study appears in the journal Nature.
Further sequencing of DNA from cell nucleuses will be done next, and could help pinpoint the hominen’s exact origins. If confirmed, the discovery would mean four different species of humans (the 4th would be the Indonesian Hobbit Homo floresiensis) co-existed on Earth some 40,000 years ago.
Work at an archaeological dig in Jerusalem provides evidence that the technology and construction methods described in the Old Testament stories of Kings David and Solomon existed. The excavations found walls and fortifications just outside the walls of Jerusalem's Old City and are dated to being around 3,000 years old. More details can be found here.