Tag Archives: discovery

Circular temple to god of wind uncovered in Mexico City

Working at the site of a demolished supermarket, archaeologists dug 10 feet down to find a temple built more than 650 years ago, researchers said this week.

The circular platform, about 36 feet in diameter and four feet tall, now sits in the shadow of a shopping mall under construction. The site is believed to have been built to worship the god of wind, Ehecatl-Quetzalcoatl, and the plans to preserve it and make it visible to the public with a large viewing window.

What archaeologists initially found below the old supermarket — shards of pottery and human remains — was expected, said Pedro Francisco Sanchez Nava, national archaeology coordinator for Mexico’s National Anthropology and History Institute.

But deeper down they were surprised to find the temple, which offers another example of how the Mexica-Tlatelolca people worshipped one of their principal deities, Sanchez said. Offerings found included an infant with no signs of trauma, bird bones, obsidian, maguey cactus spines and ceramic figurines of monkeys and duck bills.

The majority of the temple’s original white stucco remains intact. Archaeologist Salvador Guilliem said similar structures, round on three sides and with a rectangular platform on the fourth, have been found before, including in the same area.

The temple lies within the perimeter of a large ceremonial site in the capital’s Tlatelolco neighborhood, though much of that perimeter is invisible, covered by an urban landscape.

Eduardo Matos Moctezuma, researcher emeritus, said modern day Mexico City covers several different pre-Hispanic cities, including Tlatelolco and its rival Tenochtitlan.

Tenochtitlan was a center of political power while Tlatelolco dedicated itself to commerce, with an important market that was noted even by Spanish conquistador Hernan Cortes. Eventually Tenochtitlan took control of Tlatelolco.

When the Spanish and their indigenous allies began conquering Tenochtitlan, residents of that city withdrew to Tlatelolco to continue the fight and Tlatelolco became the last site of resistance against the Spanish in the area.

The site of the recently uncovered temple is just yards away from where Mexican soldiers massacred protesting students in 1968.

Meet Megalolamna paradoxodon: Scientists discover new large prehistoric shark

Megalolamna paradoxodon is the name of a new extinct shark named by an international research team that based its discovery on fossilized teeth up to 4.5 centimeters (1.8 inches) tall found from the eastern and western United States (California and North Carolina), Peru and Japan.

The fossil shark lived during the early Miocene epoch about 20 million years ago and belongs to a shark group called Lamniformes, which includes the modern-day great white and mako sharks.

More specifically, it belongs to Otodontidae, which contains the iconic extinct superpredator megalodon or the megatoothed shark, and as an otodontidMegalolamna paradoxodon represents a close cousin of the megatoothed lineage, said Kenshu Shimada, a paleobiologist at DePaul University and research associate at the Sternberg Museum in Kansas.

Certain dental features suggest its otodontid affinity, but in many other aspects, teeth of the new fossil shark look superficially like over-sized teeth of the modern-day salmon shark that belongs to the genus Lamna — hence the new genus Megalolamna, the researchers noted.

The new species name paradoxodon, or paradoxical teeth, comes from the fact that the shark appears to emerge suddenly in the geologic record with a yet unresolved nearly 45-million-year gap from when Megalolamna possibly split from its closest relative Otodus.

Although smaller than members of the megatoothed lineage containing megalodon that reached well over 10 meters (33 feet), Megalolamna paradoxodon is still an impressive shark, estimated to be minimally equivalent to the size of a typical modern-day great white — roughly 4 meters (13 feet) in length.

Living in the same ancient oceans megatoothed sharks inhabited, Megalolamna paradoxodon had grasping-type front teeth and cutting-type rear teeth likely used to seize and slice medium-sized fish.

“It’s quite remarkable that such a large lamniform shark with such a global distribution had evaded recognition until now, especially because there are numerous Miocene localities where fossil shark teeth are well sampled,” said Shimada, lead author of the study.

In classifying the new fossil shark, the research team also came to a conclusion that members of the megatoothed lineage, including megalodon, ought to be classified into the genus Otodus, and not to its traditional genus Carcharocles.

“The idea that megalodon and its close allies should be placed in Otodus is not new, but our study is the first of its kind that logically demonstrates the taxonomic proposition,” Shimada noted.

The new study is appearing in the international scientific journal Historical Biology.

In addition to Shimada, other authors include Richard Chandler, North Carolina State University; Otto Lok Tao Lam, The University of Hong Kong; Takeshi Tanaka, Japan; and David Ward, The Natural History Museum, London.

Megalolamna paradoxodon, which measured roughly 13 feet in length, is the name of new extinct shark described by an international research team that lived during the early Miocene epoch about 20 million years ago. Megalolamna paradoxodon had grasping-type front teeth and cutting-type rear teeth likely used to seize and slice medium-sized fish and it lived in the same ancient oceans megatoothed sharks inhabited. — IMAGE: Credit: Kenshu Shimada/DePaul University
Megalolamna paradoxodon, which measured roughly 13 feet in length, is the name of new extinct shark described by an international research team that lived during the early Miocene epoch about 20 million years ago. Megalolamna paradoxodon had grasping-type front teeth and cutting-type rear teeth likely used to seize and slice medium-sized fish and it lived in the same ancient oceans megatoothed sharks inhabited. — IMAGE: Credit: Kenshu Shimada/DePaul University

Crystal suggests life appeared on Earth 4.1 billion years ago

An ancient zircon crystal unearthed in Western Australia may hold evidence that life appeared on the planet 4.1 billion years ago, or about 300 million years earlier than previously thought, according to a team of U.S. researchers.

Scientists from Stanford University and the University of California, Los Angeles said they recently collected some 10,000 multibillion year-old zircons in Jack Hills, Australia, including one believed to contain a carbon deposit that is 4.1 billion years old, give or take 10 million years.

“Its complete encasement in crack-free, undisturbed zircon demonstrates that it is not contamination from more recent geologic processes … (and) may be evidence for the origin of life on Earth by 4.1 (billion years ago),” according to a paper published by the team in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences on Monday.

Scientists have used the fossil record to assert that the history of life on Earth began about 3.8 billion years ago, in the form of single-celled creatures. Humans are believed to have first appeared on Earth only about 200,000 years ago.

The study was authored by Elizabeth Bell, Patrick Boehnke, and T. Mark Harrison of the University of California, Los Angeles along with Wendy Lao of Stanford.

Bill banning use of aborted fetal tissue gets hearing in Wisconsin

University of Wisconsin-Madison researchers oppose a bill that would ban the use of aborted fetal tissue in Wisconsin.

Federal law already bans the sale of fetal tissue, but donation is allowed. The bill was scheduled for an Assembly committee hearing on Aug. 11 would ban the use of aborted fetal tissue in experiments.

The lead sponsor, Republican Rep. Andre Jacque, says he’s changed the proposal from an earlier version which also banned research using cells derived from fetal tissue.

UW School of Medicine and Public Health officials say about 100 labs on campus use cells derived from fetal tissue for research on cancer, heart disease and other conditions. The Wisconsin State Journal says about six to eight labs use fetal tissue in studies on diabetes and other conditions.