Category Archives: ASIA

Worms Frozen for 42,000 Years in Siberian Permafrost Wriggle to Life

Worms Frozen for 42,000 Years in Siberian Permafrost Wriggle to Life

Sample of Permafrost sediment has been frozen for 42,000 years and has been recently thawed to expose live nematodes.  the roundworms began to move and eat, setting a record for the time an animal can survive cryogenic preservation.

In addition to revealing new limits of endurance, it just might prove useful when it comes to preserving our own tissues. Russian biologists dug up more than 300 samples of frozen soil of different ages and locations throughout the Arctic and took them back to their lab in Moscow for a closer look.

The samples collected from remote parts of northeastern Russia contained nematodes from two different genera, which the researchers placed into Petri dishes with a nutrient medium.

Tiny nematodes like this one were found to be unexpectedly hardy, reviving after thousands of years frozen in Arctic ice

The worms were left for several weeks at a relatively warm 20 degrees Celsius (68 Fahrenheit) as they gradually showed signs of life.

Some of the worms – belonging to the genus Panagrolaimus – were found 30 metres (100 feet) underground in what had once been a ground squirrel burrow which caved in and froze over around 32,000 years ago.

Others from the genus Plectus were found in a bore sample at a depth of around 3.5 metres (about 11.5 feet). Carbon dating was used to determine that sample to be about 42,000 years old.

Contamination can’t be ruled out, but the researchers maintain they adhered to strict sterility procedures.

They aren’t known for burrowing so deep into permafrost, seasonal thawing is limited to around 80 centimetres (under 3 feet), and there’s been no hint of thawing beyond 1.5 metres (5 feet) when the area was at its warmest around 9000 years ago.

So we can be fairly confident these worms really did awaken from one incredibly long nap.

Reviving ancient organisms is itself nothing new. In 2000, scientists pulled spores from Bacillus bacteria hidden inside 250 million-year-old salt crystals and managed to return them to life.

We might be impressed by their fortitude, but we can’t apply bacteria’s life-preserving tricks to our own complicated tissues. So finding animals that can remain dormant for tens of thousands of years is a discovery well worth paying attention to.

Roundworms are known to be hardy creatures. Nematodes have been revived in 39-year-old herbarium samples, but nothing has previously been seen on a scale quite like this.

Close relatives, the tardigrade, are also well known for having a talent for surviving extreme conditions, repairing broken DNA and producing a vitrifying material when they dry out.

Even those superpowered critters have never been seen to survive so long in states of preservation, with the current tardigrade record being only around 30 years. Learning more about the biochemical mechanisms nematodes use to limit the damage of ice and hold off the ravages of oxidation on DNA over the millennia might point the way to better cryopreservation technologies.

We’ve studied other organisms that can handle having their liquids turned to ice for inspiration, such as wood frogs, in the hope of finding better ways to store human tissues for transplants, or even – just maybe – whole bodies for revival.

 “It is obvious that this ability suggests that the Pleistocene nematodes have some adaptive mechanisms that may be of scientific and practical importance for the related fields of science, such as cryomedicine, cryobiology, and astrobiology,” the researchers write in their report.

But the find does have a slightly darker side. There are concerns that the melting of permafrost could release pathogens locked up in deep freeze for tens of thousands of years.

Nematodes are unlikely to pose much of a concern, but their survival is evidence that a diverse array of organisms – from bacteria to animals, plants to fungi – could potentially return after a long absence.

Exactly what this means for surrounding ecosystems is still anybody’s guess. We can only hope a few groggy worms are all we have to worry about in Siberia’s melting ice. This research was published in Doklady Biological Sciences.

12,000-Year-Old Elongated Skulls Discovered in Asia Stun Experts

12,000-Year-Old Elongated Skulls Discovered in Asia Stun Experts

A new study has found that elderly people in China had a human head shaping about 12,000 years ago — meaning they bound some children’s maturing skulls, encouraging the heads to grow into elongated ovals — making them the oldest group on record to purposefully squash their skulls, a new study finds.

The skull is known as M45, the earliest known case of head modification on record. It dates to about 12,000 years ago.

While excavating a Neolithic site (the last period of the Stone Age) at Houtaomuga, Jilin province, in northeast China, the archaeologists found 11 elongated skulls — belonging to both males and females and ranging from toddlers to adults — that showed signs of deliberate skull reshaping, also known as intentional cranial modification (ICM).

“This is the earliest discovery of signs of intentional head modification in Eurasia continent, perhaps in the world,” said study co-researcher Qian Wang, an associate professor in the Department of Biomedical Sciences at the Texas A&M University College of Dentistry.

“If this practice began in East Asia, it likely spread westward to the Middle East, Russia, and Europe through the steppes as well as eastward across the Bering land bridge to the Americas.” 

The Houtaomuga site is a treasure trove, holding burials and artifacts from 12,000 to 5,000 years ago.

During an excavation there between 2011 and 2015, archaeologists found the remains of 25 individuals, 19 of which were preserved enough to be studied for ICM.

After putting these skulls in a CT scanner, which produced 3D digital images of each specimen, the researchers confirmed that 11 had indisputable signs of skull shaping, such as flattening and elongation of the frontal bone, or forehead.

The oldest ICM skull belonged to an adult male, who lived between 12,027 and 11,747 years ago, according to radiocarbon dating.

The M72 skull is between 6,300 and 5,500 years old.

Archaeologists have found reshaped human skulls all around the world, from every inhabited continent. But this particular finding, if confirmed, “will [be] the earliest evidence of the intentional head modification, which lasted for 7,000 years at the same site after its first emergence,” Wang told Foxnews.

The 11 ICM individuals died between ages 3 and 40, indicating that skull shaping began at a young age when human skulls are still malleable, Wang said.

An excavation at the site during 2010.

It’s unclear why this particular culture practiced skull modification, but it’s possible that fertility, social status, and beauty could be factors, Wang said. The people with ICM buried at Houtaomuga were likely from a privileged class, as these individuals tended to have grave goods and funeral decorations.

“Apparently, these youth were treated with a decent funeral, which might suggest a high socioeconomic class,” Wang said.

Even though the Houtaomuga man is the oldest known case of ICM in history, it’s a mystery whether other known instances of ICM spread from this group, or whether they rose independently of one another, Wang said.

“It is still too early to claim intentional cranial modification first emerged in East Asia and spread elsewhere; it may have originated independently in different places,” Wang said. More ancient DNA research and skull examinations throughout the world may shed light on this practice’s spread, he said.

Amazingly preserved 46000-year-old frozen horned lark found in Siberia

Frozen bird discovered in Siberia is 46,000 years old, scientists discover

Researchers in Siberia discovered a frozen bird in the permafrost in 2018.

A frozen bird, pictured, was so well preserved that fossil hunters thought that it had ‘died yesterday’ has turned out to be 46,000 years old, from the middle of the last ice age

Examination of the remains of the bird found that it had lived there more than experts expected. The analysis revealed that the bird is about 46,000 years old and covered by permafrost in Siberia.

An analysis of the DNA found that the bird was a ancestor of two different lark subspecies — one in Mongolia and one in Siberia. It provides unique insight into the ecosystem this lark lived in during the last Ice Age.

The specimen — an ancestor of the modern horned lark, pictured — was found preserved in permafrost in a mine tunnel near the village of Belaya Gora in north-east Siberia
The specimen — an ancestor of the horned lark — was found preserved in permafrost in a mine tunnel near the village of Belaya Gora in north-east Siberia

Scientists from the University of Stockholm and the Swedish Museum of Natural history studied the frozen bird and determined it was a horned lark that roamed the sky of our planet between 44,000 and 49,000 years ago.

“Not only can we identify the bird as a horned lark. The genetic analysis also suggests that the bird belonged to a population that was a joint ancestor of two subspecies of horned lark living today, one in Siberia, and one in the steppe in Mongolia. This helps us understand how the diversity of subspecies evolves,” revealed Nicolas Dussex, a researcher at the Department of Zoology at Stockholm University.

The study of the frozen bird revealed its distinct charcoal-colored feathers, typical of the horned lark. Despite its age, the feathers are in excellent condition.

Such well-preserved animals “allow for studies of morphological traits, as well as the ecology and evolution of a range of extinct and extant animal species,” the researchers revealed.

Experts also explained that the fact that such a miniature and fragile specimen was found nearly intact suggests that mud and dirt were most likely deposited gradually, or that the ground where it once lived was relatively stable.

The discovery of the bird, as well as its age, comes as a big surprise to experts. They say that although frozen remains of large mammals have been discovered many times, the remains of a frozen bird dating back from the late Pleistocene permafrost deposits has never before been found.

The next step for experts is to map the ancient bird’s genome in order to better understand how the species compares to modern subspecies of horned larks.

Speaking to CNN, Love Dalén from the Swedish Museum of Natural History explained that “this finding implies that the climatic changes that took place at the end of the last Ice Age led to the formation of new subspecies.”

A study detailing the discovery has been published in the Journal Communications Biology.

Scientists working in Siberia have also found the preserved remains of other animals such as ancient wolves, woolly mammoths as well as wooly rhinos among other species.

Such discoveries are described by scientists as “priceless treasures,” that allow them to recover DNA and even RNA samples.

Scientists at the Centre for Palaeogenetics have access to abundant samples from similar discoveries from the same site in Siberia. Among the more fascinating is an 18 000-year-old puppy named “Dogor” which is currently being studied in order to determine if it is a wolf or a dog.

Other findings include a 50 000-year-old cave lion cub “Spartak.”

39000 Years Old Frozen Woolly Mammoth found in Siberia, goes on display in Tokyo

39000 Years Old Frozen Woolly Mammoth found in Siberia, goes on display in Tokyo

After 39,000 years, a baby wooly mammoth is making her public debut. The prehistoric creature, nicknamed Yuka, is being put on public display in Japan, after being shipped from her home in Siberia, Russia.

Yuka, a 39,000-year-old baby mammoth, was found with liquid blood in her veins, a positive sign for scientists wishing to study the animal’s DNA.

Yuka was found trapped in ice on the New Siberian Islands. Though parts of her body were exposed to the elements and predators, the young animal is thought to be the most well-preserved mammoth specimen known to science.

She has been carefully shipped in a large crate packed with dry ice to an exhibition hall in Yokohama, south of Tokyo.

Baby mammoth Yuka was discovered earlier this year in Siberia.

Visitors can stroll past the creature and see its orange-brown tufted hair and soft tissue, and imagine it wandering the icy planes thousands of years ago.

Yuka was first believed to be 10,000 years old, but subsequent tests showed the two-year-old mammoth was much older, dating to about 39,000 years, according to the Siberian Times.

Scientists were able to extract blood for testing, the first time the extinct creature’s blood has been harvested by scientists.

According to a May report by the Times, Russian and South Korean scientists are working on extracting the mammoth’s DNA to bring the species back to life.

Visitors to the Japanese museum can see Yuka on display with her trunk fully extended and her legs sprawled.

A worker looks at 39,000-year-old female woolly mammoth Yuka upon her arrival at the exhibition hall in Yokohama, Japan.

She is also covered in a layer of permafrost.

The majority of woolly mammoths died out some 10,000 years ago, though a small group of mammoths lived on Wrangel Island in the Arctic until around 1700 B.C.

Mammoth expert Norihisa Inuzuka ssays aid that Yuka allows scientists to “dig deeper into the reasons why species became extinct and apply the lessons learned to the human race, which might be facing its own dangers of extinction.”

one of the oldest inhabited cities in the world

One of the World’s Oldest Cities is 8,000 Years Older Than the Pyramids

One of the World’s Oldest Cities is 8,000 Years Older Than the Pyramids
Aleppo, Syria

Within present-day Syria an ancient city has been built thousands of years before the first pyramid of Egypt was constructed.

The city of Aleppo is considered one of the oldest cities in the world with signs of habitation that date from the last ice age when the settlement began as a small populated area. 

Excavations at a site located no more than 15 miles from the center of the ancient city have yielded archeological evidence which clearly shows that the city, as well as its surrounding region, was inhabited for at least 13,000 years.

This sole fact makes the ancient city of Aleppo and its surrounding area one of the oldest continuously occupied cities on the surface of the planet.

Ancient to ancient civilizations, the settlements that would eventually give birth to Aleppo predates even the oldest of Egyptian pyramids. Its original name, like the name of many other ancient cities, remains an enigma since ancient texts originating from the founding of the ancient settlements have never been discovered.

Although its history dates back to a time when history was probably not even reported, the city was mentioned for the first time in clay cuneiform tablets that were crafted some 5000 years ago, which already mentioned the city as a commercial and military power.

This means that the city was already an important center in the region, something that tells us that long before 5,000 years ago, the city was popular among people in the area. Its more central parts were probably inhabited since the 6th millennium BC.

 Excavations at Tell as-Sawda and Tell al-Ansari, just south of the old city of Aleppo, show that the area was occupied by Amorites since at least the latter part of the 3rd millennium BC.

An image of the Hadad Temple Inside the Citadel of Aleppo.

This popularity may have been due to its geographical location, situated between the Mediterranean Sea and Mesopotamia–precisely at the end of the Silk Road, which passed all the way from central Asia to Mesopotamia.

In other words, the city’s prime location made sure it became one of the more important trading centers in that part of the world. Aleppo appears in the historical record as a prominent city much sooner than Damascus (the capital of present-day Syria), which suggests that by the time Damascus became an important city, Aleppo was way ahead of them. In regards to Damascus, numerous scholars argue it is older than Aleppo, however, evidence of habitation at Damascus can be traced back to around 11,000 years.

This was proven by archaeological excavations at a site called Tell Ramad, not far from the center of the city. Analysis of the archaeological remains suggests habitation in the area can be placed at around 9,000 BC. That’s why it isn’t surprising to learn that there are ancient accounts that suggest how people in ancient times considered Aleppo as the center of the ancient world.

Despite its importance and age, the ancient city of Aleppo has not been studied much by archeologists, partially because the modern city was built on top of the ancient site. Experts estimate that the ancient city of Aleppo comprises an approximate area of around 160 hectares (400 acres; 1.6 km2). The historical record suggests that the ancient city was surrounded within a historic wall of 5 km (3 mi) that was last rebuilt by the Mamlukes.

However, since much of the ancient city has been destroyed, the wall as well has since nearly disappeared. Nonetheless, we know it had nine gates, out of which 5 are–luckily–well preserved. The wall that surrounded the city was in turn circled by a broad, deep ditch, that offered extra protection from potential intruders.

In the Ebla tablets, the ancient city of Aleppo was referred to as Ha-lam. The first record of Aleppo most likely originates from the third millennium BC if the identification of Aleppo as Armi, a city-state closely related to Ebla is correct.

A side view of the citadel of Aleppo.

One of its most famous parts–although not as ancient as the city itself–is the so-called Citadel of Aleppo, a large medieval fortified palace located at the very center of the ancient city. In fact, this structure is considered one of the oldest and largest castles constructed on the surface of the planet.

Evidence of the citadel’s history can be traced back to the 3rd millennium BC. Although the city was conquered by many ancient civilizations, the majority of the citadel’s construction is attributed to the Ayyubid period.

The hill atop which the citadel was built is considered of great importance since it is where there the prophet Abraham is said to have milked his sheep. Researchers estimate that around 30% of the Ancient City of Aleppo has been destroyed in the recent military fights. The Egyptian Pyramids are thought to have arisen during the Third Dynasty reign of Pharaoh Djoser if the historical timeline set out by Egyptologists is correct.

The Pyramid of Djoser at Saqqara is widely acknowledged as the earliest colossal stone building in Egypt as well as the earliest large-scale cut stone construction. The pyramid was completed in no more than 19 years, during which the builders not only erected the pyramid, its temples, and surrounding limestone wall but a massive subterranean world with a length of around 5.7 kilometers.

It is noteworthy to mention that by the time Aleppo was established as a settlement, a mysterious group of people built not far from Syria what is considered the oldest temple on the surface of the planet. Predating Stonehenge by around 6,000 years, Göbekli Tepe is located in southeastern Turkey and is thought to have been erected by hunter-gatherers between 13,000 and 11,000 years ago.

The massive pillars at Göbekli Tepe

To date, archeologists have discovered more than 200 pillars at Göbekli Tepe, all of which have been built inside 20 circles. Some of the pillars at Göbekli Tepe weigh more than 10 tons. This fact has led many experts to question whether hunter-gatherers were sophisticated enough to construct an ancient temple complex the site of Göbekli Tepe at the end of the Last Glacial period on Earth. Göbekli Tepe is located around 13 kilometers from the city of Şanlıurfa. 

Şanlıurfa, in turn, is located around 230 kilometers from the ancient city of Aleppo. Given the relatively close proximity of the two sites, it suggests that between 13,000 and 11,000 years ago, the wider region was inhabited by people that were much more sophisticated than hunter-gatherers or nomads. All of the above would suggest that some 8,000 years before the Pyramid of Saqqara, people in the region of Aleppo had the ability to erect standing stone structures.