Early Humans Lived in China 1.7 Million Years Ago

New research published in in the journal Scientific Reports, has revealed that Homo erectus, an ancient ancestor to modern humans, occupied a vast area in China as early as 1.7 million years ago. The work is part of a government push to investigate traces of early humans in China with the hope that it may identify a new cradle of mankind in the nation.

The now-extinct species of human is said to have evolved in Africa at least 1.8 million years ago and then dispersed out from the continent reaching as far as China. Now scientists are trying to understand exactly when, how and why they moved to other continents in an attempt to better understand what drove human evolution. One possibility is that hominids migrated to East Asia during the early Stone Age as a consequence of increasing cooling and aridity in Africa and Eurasia.

A team of archaeologists were able to determine when the Homo erectus wandered the plains of China by analysing tools and earth samples in the Nihewan Basin, which lies in a mountainous region about 150 kilometres west of Beijing, an area rich with Stone Age sites. Researchers have found more than 100,000 relics in the region including thousands of stone tools including stone blades used for cutting or scraping, which are believed to have been used by Homo erectus.

In order to date the items, Hong Ao, a paleomagnetist at the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Xi’an, and his colleagues analysed earth samples to look at the way in which different layers were magnetized — since the Earth’s magnetic field has regularly flipped numerous times over millions of years, looking at the manner in which the magnetic fields of minerals are oriented can shed light on how old they are. The researchers discovered this site in northern China might be about 1.6 million to 1.7 million years old, making it 600,000 or 700,000 years older than previously thought.

Artefacts, bones and tools belonging to Homo erectus have also been found in southern China more than 2,500 kilometres away, which suggests that they inhabited a huge territory in China about 1.7 to 1.6 million years ago. Some researchers believe that discoveries showing stone tools dating back up to 2 million years in China draws into question current beliefs that Africa was the sole origin of mankind .

Early humans probably walked in a different way

In a recent research at the University of Liverpool in the UK publishes in the Journal of the Royal Society Interface, Karl Bates and a team of researchers have analysed how a footprint is associated with the way an animal or early human walked.

Until now the depth of the footprint was directly connected to the pressure of the body which created it. However, the study shows that the correlation of the foot pressure and footprint depth is more complicated than what was initially thought. Using sophisticated computer algorithms and models as well as live data from people walking, they have correlated foot print depths with pressure, showing that different parts of the foot create different size indentations.

The results indicated that previous ideas on early human gait have to be rethought.

You can read more here.

Scientists have spotted distant Jupiter sized planet that has water

At the top of Mauna Kea in Hawaii, a team of scientists led by Quinn Konopacky (University of Toronto), have detected a planet the size of Jupiter that indicates that it contains water and carbon monoxide.

The team managed to come to such a detailed research using the advanced Keck II telescope fitted with the Ohio State Infrared Imager/Spectrometer ( OSIRIS). The atmosphere of the planet shows evidence of water vapour and a high ratio of carbon to oxygen. According to the scientists, those conditions existed on Earth millions of years ago, which shows that the planet formation is in progress.

The planet orbits around a star called HR 8799 at a distance of approximately 130 light years from Earth and is one of four planets that orbits around this star.

You can read more here.

White Dwarf Stars May Be Best Chance for Discovering Extra-terrestrial Life

A new study titled, “Detecting Bio-Markers In Habitable-Zone Earths Transiting White Dwarfs”, published by the Royal Astronomical Society, has concluded that dying White Dwarf systems could host planets with life and they might be able to detect it within the next decade.

When a star dies, it ejects its outer layers, leaving behind a hot core called a white dwarf, which is typically about the size of Earth. It slowly cools and fades over time, but it can retain heat long enough to warm a nearby world for billions of years.

White dwarfs help in the search for extra-terrestrial life by first finding the planets that exist in the habitable zone of white dwarfs. This can be achieved by observing lights from a star and checking to see if it dims at regular intervals – a phenomenon that suggests the starlight is being blocked by an orbiting planet.

Once a planet is discovered orbiting around a white dwarf, the next stage is to determine if it can sustain life. For tell-tale signs of life, astronomers are particularly interested in finding oxygen. According to the study, oxygen could be detected in the atmosphere of a white dwarf’s planet much more easily than for an Earth-like planet orbiting a Sun-like star. They found that both oxygen and water vapor would be detectable with only a few hours of total observation time.

You can read more here.

Archaeological Find Suggests Ancient Israel’s Capital Was Burned

An archaeological dig has uncovered what appears to be evidence that Shiloh, the ancient capital of Israel that was once the site where the Tabernacle and Ark of the Covenant could be found, was destroyed, at least in part, by fire.

Excavators working in Tel Shiloh, the site of the ancient city, have uncovered the remains of a broken clay pitcher which was found lying in a layer of reddish ash, Tazpit News Agency reports. The finding leads them to believe the city was burned after 369 years of being the nation’s religious center. The pitcher is suspected to be from around 1050 B.C. – the time the events described in the biblical book of 1 Samuel would have likely occurred.

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Chimps have superhuman skills

At the laboratory of Tetsuro Matsuzawa in Boston tests have been conducted on chimpanzees concluding in surprise that they could perform mental tasks that even for the best humans they would have been very difficult or even impossible. However the chimpanzee named Ayumu could very easily conduct those tasks.

It was shown that they have incredible short term photographic memory. Matsuzawa suggests that this serves chimpanzees in the wild to be able to make fast decisions, since it is a matter of life or death.

So the question is if we are indeed ancestors of chimpanzees how is it possible for us not to have those abilities, since natural selection is supposed to give the best features to the next generation? Unless we are not direct descendants of the chimpanzees but rather a different ‘version’. Food for thought…

You can read more here.

300-Million Mechanical Part Found in Russian Coal

The Earth was so young 300 million years ago, the first land animals had yet to evolve into dinosaurs, most scientists believe.

If that’s the case, how do you explain the discovery in Russia of a piece of a gear shift — a common machine part — embedded into a hunk of 300-million-year-old coal. Has this artifact been correctly identified? And if so, who could have made this thing? And for what purpose?

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