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Noah's Archeology


For a long time, the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier was also the Tomb of the Misplaced King: after Richard III fell in battle in 1485, it took centuries to locate his corpse. In 2012, a team of archaeologists finally unearthed it under a parking lot. Forensic analysis revealed details that had been lost to history, including a severely twisted spine—a condition we now call scoliosis—that he couldn’t have possibly hidden from those around him. In 2022, researchers unearthed an ancient Buddhist temple in Pakistan, and, a few years before that, possibly the fastest human in history. Discuss with your team: do these smaller details about the past affect how we see the world today? If we had discovered from Richard III's DNA that he was a woman in disguise, would that change our view of him or of his role in history?

The British monarch Richard III died in battle in 1485, but, for centuries, no one knew where his body ended up. In 2012, a team of archaeologists finally found it—under a parking lot. That's right! Well, how did a king end up at a parking lot? 

King Richard died during the Battle of Bosworth in 1485, which ended the War of Roses, and he was buried at Greyfriars Church in Leicester. The church was destroyed during the reign of Henry VIII.  Modern historians compared maps and determined the location. Then, they tested through DNA to verify the identity of the remains. The site is now a protected monument. His remains have answered a few questions about this famous monarch. Shakespeare wrote that he was a "poisonous bunch-backed toad." However, archeological evidence shows that he only has a common form of scoliosis (a curving of the spine), and it was definitely not noticeable.  


In 2022, archeologist were excited to discover an ancient 2,000-year-old Buddhist temple in Swat Valley of Pakistan. Luca Maria Olivieri, an archaeologist at Ca’ Foscari University in Venice, was the leading archeologist for the excavation. The finding is significant because it is a testament to how the region of Gandhara was a cultural crossroads between Asia and Europe as early as the time of Alexander the Great. Furthermore, several other temples have been found in Swat Valley since 1955 and prove the theory of a street of temples. The artwork showcased a unique Greco-Buddhist style, which featured Buddhist subjects with Greek techniques. 

In 2003,  Mary Pappen Jr, an aboriginal girl found ancient footprints in Mungo National Park of New South Wales Australia. In fact, the footprints were of hunters 20,000 years ago. Scientists have since found 700 footprints and analyzed the steps to gain insights on how these people lived, including a child, family and groups of hunters. Steve Webb, a biological archaeologist, calculates that one of the hunters was running at 37km/ hour. Currently, the

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world record belongs to Usain Bolt which times as 37.6 km/hour. Even though, a Sports Illustrated article mentioned that elite athletes have been recorded to be faster at certain times in their run, that ancient hunter was pretty darn fast. Webb says, "if you weren’t fit in those days, you didn’t survive.” Either way, it's so interesting to know so much about someone just by their footsteps. 

The above questions are more than academic; they force us to reevaluate choices made in the present. In 2024, the Globe Theatre in London staged a new production of Shakespeare’s Richard III, casting a woman with an untwisted spine in the title role. Some people protested that the production needed an actor who shared Richard III’s now-known physical ailment. Discuss with your team: to what extent does an actor need to share lived experiences with the character they are portraying?

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Meet Richard: the man, the myth, the monster - the woman? A new production of Shakespeare’s Richard III unfolds in the Globe Theatre this summer, with Artistic Director Michelle Terry in the title role. This is not the first time the Globe has been criticized for pleasing gender activists. For such a historical role for stage performance, it is quite daring and controversial. 

However, this time the controversy is not about gender but about disability. It’s known that the real Richard III experienced scoliosis (a curvature of the spine) throughout his life. In Shakespeare’s play, an opening soliloquy from Richard shares with the audience his self-perception as an “unfinished,” “deformed,” “unfashionable” figure. The role is therefore often cast with a disabled actor and the casting of an able-bodied person in the role is the source of the controversy. Terry shared: “I will not alter my physicality to explore it. I will not be playing Richard with a visible or physical impairment, and we will frame this production in such a way as to make it very clear the lens through which this interpretation is being explored."

It doesn’t always take a volcano: the Roman ruins at Ostia Antika offer a look back into history similar to what most people seek out in Pompeii, even if they were preserved less perfectly. Where would you go in your country for the most authentic peek at how the world used to be? Discuss with your team: if an OpenAI project destroyed all life on Earth but left our cities intact, what would a future anthropologist conclude about human civilization? How much would their conclusions vary depending on what city they visited?

Somewhere off the beaten path in Italy...Unlike Rome’s grandiose ruins and the patrician villas of Pompeii, a visit to Ostia Antica gives a sense of ordinary life long ago. This was a working town, ancient Rome’s port near the mouth of the Tiber River (the river’s currents and shallows made it too hard for big ships to sail into the heart of Rome). Ships arrived with cargo from all around the sprawling Roman Empire; goods were barged up the Tiber or transferred on carts. In its heyday, around the second century A.D., more than 80,000 people lived here.

Plumbing was one of the marvels of ancient Roman cities. Besides its communal restroom, which had running water, Ostia Antica had public baths that could hold hundreds of citizens in hot, cold and warm pools. Water was carried in lead pipes, still visible in some places if you poke around; giant boilers produced steam heat for some town buildings, too, an Ancient World sophistication.

Yet as the Roman Empire declined, so did Ostia Antica, which was eventually abandoned. Over the centuries, tidal mud and blowing dirt/sand covered much of the city (helping to preserve it). The river shifted course, silting up the port. Ostia Antica fell into obscurity; shepherds and their flocks were the main visitors until major excavations began in the early 1900s.

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Unfortunately WSC's link is not working anymore. But, here is a very cool video/article about restoration in Pompeii. Pompeii has been the fascination of archeologists for the last century and work continues even today. 

A 20-year restoration of a home owned by former slaves in Pompeii, Italy, offers a look at life in Roman society before this lively city was buried in volcanic ash from the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in AD 79.


These days, Indiana Jones would be piloting a drone. New technologies have allowed archaeologists to reimagine the archaeological method with a lighter footprint. Consider the Girsu Project’s discovery of an ancient palace, then discuss with your team: what aspects of your own country’s history would benefit from being re-explored using drones, AI, and other recent advances?

Archaeologists at Northern Arizona University are hoping a new technology they helped pioneer will change the way scientists study the broken pieces left behind by ancient societies. The team from NAU’s Department of Anthropology have succeeded in teaching computers to perform a complex task many


scientists who study ancient societies have long dreamt of: rapidly and consistently sorting thousands of pottery designs into multiple stylistic categories. By using a form of machine learning known as Convolutional Neural Networks (CNNs), the archaeologists created a computerized method that roughly emulates the thought processes of the human mind in analyzing visual information. For the four archaeologists with decades of experience sorting tens of thousands of actual potsherds, the machine outperformed two of them and was comparable with the other two. Even more impressive, the machine was able to do what many archaeologists can have difficulty with: describing why it made the classification decisions that it did.

Archaeology is constantly evolving with new technology. In this interview, archaeologist Dr. Alex Elvis Badillo discusses how he uses technology in the field to capture, record, and preserve his team's findings.

Working at the site of Pompeii was Allison Emmerson, the director of the Pompeii I.14 project about the people who lived in the southeastern part of the city. My role on the project was to help lead the Digital Data Initiatives team to develop a paperless and 3D documentation workflow that would collect, organize, and prepare data for analysis for all excavations on site. This would include documentation with photos and scientific sketches. In addition to collecting data about each part of the excavation and entering them into the iPad, we used an image-based documentation method called structure-from-motion (SfM) photogrammetry to record digital 3D models of the excavation throughout the process. The 3D models have scale and are measurable and they have a photorealistic texture, which makes them seem like a digital twin of the real thing!


Archaeologists have discovered the 4,500-year-old remains of a lost palace from the ancient Sumerian city of Girsu in southern IraqResearchers from The Girsu Project used technology and drone photography to identify the subsurface remains of a previously unknown large complex at the archaeology site Tablet Hill in the modern Iraqi city of Tello. Tablet Hill had been damaged by excavations during the 19th century and conflict in the 20th century.

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Last fall at Tablet Hill, mudbrick walls were identified and more than 200 cuneiform tablets with ancient Sumerian writing were found in spoil heaps, piles of material discarded from previous excavations during the 19th century. Archaeologists also discovered the Eninnu temple, the main sanctuary of the Sumerian god Ningirsu, the namesake of the ancient city. The Temple of the White Thunderbird was one of the most important of the historical region of Mesopotamia. Prior to its recent discovery, the temple was only known by ancient inscriptions found at the fieldwork site 140 years ago.

Jurassic Park, Godzilla, and The Land Before Time have all depicted dinousars as giant scaly lizards—but more recent research has suggested they didn’t look like that at all; it appears they were less Komodo dragon and more Qatari falcon. If so, the T. rex in Jurassic Park should have been a thing with animatronic feathers. The field of paleoart aims to visualize past creatures as accurately as possible despite the limited evidence. If a future paleoartist tried to reconstruct the world of 2024 using incomplete information, what would they get wrong? Would they be stumped by fossil evidence of dogs wearing sweaters?

Roar! We all know what T-Rex looks like, or do we? This interesting article beckons us to wonder how scientist re-create ancient species. New paleo-art has T-Rex covered in feathers, which is not what we have previously imagined. Although no T-Rex feathers have been found, it is not impossible, because feathers and tissue do not preserve into fossils. Additionally, there are evidence that point to the existence of feathers. In volcanic ruins of China, where dinosaurs were preserved instantaneously, two tyrannosaurs – close cousins of T. Rex – called Yutyrannus and Dilong were covered in feathers. This means that the ancestors of T. rex had feathers, which means the T. Rex probably did too! Another recent study based on T-Rex thigh bone suggested that the T-Rex might have been three different species. So, even with advanced technology, some things in the past, we may never know.


According to the Guardian, "Since the early 19th century, artists have depicted colorful – if sometimes fictional – dinosaurs and prehistoric environments, mingling science with unbridled fantasy. This art is the subject of a new book: Paleoart"  Over the years, their imagination and artistry have shaped our belief about how these ancient creatures looked like.

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Dinosaur art is its own special genre and have been around since 1800s.  Benjamin Waterhouse Hawkins was an artist from the era of the Crystal Palace 1851, who drew dinosaur models on-site of the exhibition. Early artist such as Adolphe François Pannemaker who painted Primitive World infused dinosaurs with mythological settings. Paleo artists not only influenced the appearance of dinosaurs but also created relationships, like the ichthyosaurs and plesiosaurs as dire enemies was a common theme in 19th century art. The image on the left titled Laelaps was created by renowned artist  

Charles R Knight who was known for his depiction of their anatomy and movement. Some artists are so passionate that they immerse themselves in the natural scenery such as Czech artist Burian, who illustrated many books. In the 1970s, Canadian artist Ely Kish was one of the few women in the field and she painted many extinction scenes, echoing society's awareness of climate change. Paleo art is truly a case where the present influences the interpretation of the past. 

Investigate the following major archaeological and paleontological discoveries. What circumstances and strategies allowed us to discover them, and what impact have they had on our understanding of history and the present day? Discuss with your team: can you imagine a discovery that would dramatically change the modern world?

The Rosetta Stone is a stele (monumental slab) composed of granite inscribed with three versions of a royal decree issued in Memphis, Egypt in 196 BC during the Ptolemaic dynasty.  It has the same decree in three languages: the top and middle texts are in hieroglyphic and Demotic script, and the bottom is ancient Greek. It was the first trilingual text uncovered in the modern times. Thus, its discovery was instrumental in helping historians and archeologists interpret hieroglyphics. It was found near the town of Rosetta on July 1799 by French officer Pierre-François Bouchard during the Napoleonic campaign in Egypt. When the British defeated the French, they took over this artifact, and since 1802, it has been exhibited at the British Museum. It remains the most visited artifact of the Museum. It used to be displayed in an open metal case but since 2004, it has been sealed in a glass case because of too many visitors touching it. 


Dubbed “another Rosetta Stone,” the Taposiris Magna Stele was discovered by archaeologists in the town of Taposiris Magna near Alexandria. The Stela found at Taposiris Magna, inscribed in Hierglyphic and Demotic side by side is dated two years earlier than the Rosetta Stone. The limestone decree tells how Ptolemy V gave part of Nubia to the Egyptian goddess Isis. Unlike the Rosetta Stone, however, only Egyptian hieroglyphs and Demotic script survive on this sample. Chief of the Dominican Egyptian Mission, Dr. Kathleen Martinez added that the mission has been working for six years at Taposiris Magna Site and made a lot of important discoveries concerning the history of Alexandria in general. 

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As the world's largest Buddhist temple, Borobudur is a huge Mahayana Buddhist temple in Central Java, Indonesia. It was constructed in the 9th century and later abandoned in the 14th century, due to the decline of Hindu and the rise of Islam. It was found in1814 by Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles, then the British ruler of Java, who had a fascination with Java culture and heard from locals about a mysterious temple in the jungle.  Borobudur lay hidden for centuries under layers of volcanic ash and jungle growth, becoming part of local folklore and superstition

After its initial discovery, several Dutch scholars continued the excavation projects and its fame grew with valuable artifacts shipped to museums. But along the way, it also became a site of looting, even at times with colonial consent, unfortunately.  Since then, it has undergone several major restorations, most recently by the Indonesian government and UNESCO. 

As a major tourist attraction and religious practice site, it is a source of fame, with natural disasters and conflict. There were 2.5 million visitors annually (80% were domestic tourists) in the mid-1990s. Archeologists have noticed about 50% of the stone paths are severely worn out. In 1985, it was the site of bombing by Islamic fanatics. In 2006, it also suffered damage due to a giant earthquake.


Petra is probably one of the most iconic historical sites in the world and appeared in many famous movies including "Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade" and "Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen." Petra and is a historic and archaeological city in southern Jordan, between mountains and in a basin with rivers running to the Gulf of Aqaba. The area around Petra has been inhabited from as early as 7000 BC, and the Nabataeans might have settled there and made Petra the capital city of their kingdom as early as the 4th century BC. It became a hub for the incense trade and flourished in the 1st century AD, but it was later abandoned in the Byzantine Era. 


Petra was rediscovered in1812, when Swiss traveller Johann Ludwig Burckhardt visited there. Like many ancient monuments, it was raided of its many treasures by explorers.  Later, in 1929, a four-person team consisting of British archaeologists Agnes Conway and George Horsfield, Palestinian physician and folklore expert Dr Tawfiq Canaan and Dr Ditlef Nielsen, a Danish scholar, excavated and surveyed Petra.  Archaeologist Philip Hammond from the University of Utah visited Petra annually for nearly 40 years. 

On December 6, 1985, Petra was designated a World Heritage Site.  Since then, preserving this wonderous place has faced many challenges, including erosion, flooding, improper restoration, and unsustainable tourism. Bedouins that lived there have also been relocated.  Many archeological groups with the permission of the Jordan government have worked on projects over the years. 

For fans of the legend Beowulf, this is something exciting. Sutton Hoo is the site of two early medieval cemeteries dating from the 6th to 7th centuries near the English town of Woodbridge. Archaeologists have been excavating the area since 1938, when a previously undisturbed ship burial containing a wealth of Anglo-Saxon artifacts was discovered. The site is

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important in establishing the history of the Anglo-Saxon kingdom of East Anglia as well as illuminating a  regonal period which lacks historical documentation.

The site was first excavated by Basil Brown, a self-taught archaeologist, under the permission of the landowner Edith Pretty, but when its importance became apparent, national experts took over. The artifacts the archaeologists found in the burial chamber include a suite of metalwork dress fittings in gold and gems, a ceremonial helmet, a shield and sword, a lyre, and silver plates from the Byzantine Empire.  The site appears as a group of approximately 20 earthen mounds that rise slightly above the horizon of the hill-spur when viewed from the opposite bank. The visitor center contains original artifacts, replicas of finds, and a reconstruction of the ship burial chamber. The site is in the care of the National Trust; most of these objects are now held by the British MuseumDavid M. Wilson of the British Museum has remarked that the metal artworks found in the Sutton Hoo graves were "work of the highest quality, not only in English but in European terms".

The Aztec sun stone also known as Piedra del Sol in Spanish is a late post-classic Mexica sculpture housed in the National Anthropology Museum in Mexico City and is perhaps the most famous work of Mexica sculpture. It measures 3.6 metres in diameter and 98 centimetres thick and weighs 24,590 kg. Shortly after the Spanish conquest, the monolithic sculpture was buried in the Zócalo, the main square of Mexico City. It was rediscovered in December 1790 during repairs on the Mexico City Cathedral. Following its rediscovery, the sun stone was mounted on an exterior wall of the cathedral, where it remained until 1885. Early scholars initially thought that the stone was carved in the 1470s, though modern research suggests that it was carved between 1502 and 1521.


The name glyph of the Aztec ruler Moctezuma II in the central disc dates the monument to his reign between 1502 and 1520. There are no clear indications about the authorship or purpose of the monolith, although there are certain references to the construction of a huge block of stone by the Mexicas in their last stage of splendor.  In the center of the monolith is often believed to be the face of the solar deity, Tonatiuh, which appears inside the glyph for "movement" the name of the current era. Some scholars have argued that the identity of the central face is of the earth monster, Tlaltecuhtli, or of a hybrid deity known as "Yohualtecuhtli" who is referred to as the "Lord of the Night". 

Archaeologist Ivan Šprajc has spent nearly 30 years uncovering long-lost cities buried deep in Mexico's Yucatán Peninsula. His latest discovery is capturing the world's attention. Ocomtún is an ancient Late Classic city located on the Yucatan Peninsula in the Mexican state of Campeche. Archaeologists from Mexico's National Institute of Anthropology and History announced the discovery of the city in June 2023, after finding the ruins of several pyramid structures measuring approximately 15 meters in height in a relatively unexplored area. Analysis of pottery fragments  indicate the area was inhabited by the Maya people between 600 CE and 800 CE, and that the city fell into ruin in around 1000 CE, coinciding with the Classic Maya collapse. Archaeologists named the site Ocomtún after the Mayan word for stone column.


The site was discovered during an expedition led by Dr. Ivan Šprajc after he received Lidar images showing significant human cultural structures hidden in the landscape. Šprajc named the site after the many cylindrical columns scattered throughout the settlement. Ocumtún is located in the Balamkú Ecological Conservation Zone, in a virtually impenetrable place. The lush jungle vegetation creates a ''black hole'' where exploration had never occurred. Lidar research is conducted during flights over areas using surveillance equipment that penetrates the vegetation and creates images of the terrain and any structures below it.


Montevideo Maru was a merchant ship of the Empire of Japan. Launched in 1926, it served as a military transport during World War II. It was sunk by the American submarine USS Sturgeon on 1 July 1942, drowning 1,054 people, mostly Australian prisoners of war and civilians. The sinking is considered the worst maritime disaster in Australia's history. 

Unaware that the ship was carrying Allied prisoners of war and civilians Sturgeon fired four torpedoes at Montevideo Maru before dawn on 1 July 1942. At least one torpedo hit, causing the vessel to take on water and sink 11 minutes later. Australians in the water sang "Auld Lang Syne" to their trapped comrades as the ship sank beneath the waves.

In late January 2010, Federal Member of ParliamentStuart Robert, called upon the then Prime Minister of AustraliaKevin Rudd, to back the search for Montevideo Maru. On 18 April 2023, the wreck of the Montevideo Maru was discovered at a depth of over 4,000 meters in the South China Sea, off the northwest coast of Luzon, Philippines, using technology from Dutch underwater search specialist Fugro.

Australian prime minister Anthony Albanese said he hoped the news would bring a "measure of comfort to loved ones who have kept a long vigil". . A Montevideo Maru memorial has been erected near the centre of the Australian Ex-Prisoners of War Memorial in Ballarat, Victoria. 

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Endurance was the three-masted barquentine in which Sir Ernest Shackleton and a crew of 27 men sailed for the Antarctic on the 1914–1917 Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition. The ship was bought by Shackleton in January 1914 for the expedition, which would be her first voyage. A year later, she became trapped in pack ice and finally sank in the Weddell Sea off Antarctica on 21 November 1915. All of the crew survived her sinking and were eventually rescued in 1916 after using the ship's boats to travel to Elephant Island and Shackleton, the ship's captain Frank Worsley, and four others made a voyage to seek help. The drifting of the Endurance began on February 16,1915 and its final sinking was on 21 of November. 

Since 1998, there have been false hope and attempts to find the HMS Endurance funded by National Geographic Society, private wreck hunters and research institutes, employing technology including long range autonomous underwater vehicles and re-analysis of the original lunar occultation timings. Most based their search on captain Frank Worsely's meticulous logs. The wreck of Endurance was discovered on 5 March 2022, nearly 107 years after she sank, by the search team Endurance22. She lies 3,008 metres deep and is in "a brilliant state of preservation". The wreck is designated as a protected historic site and monument under the Antarctic Treaty System. The search for the Endurance and its discovery were followed by students around the world, thanks to the efforts of the expedition's educational partner, Reach the World. Reach the World conducted live streams, created educational resources, and published information throughout the process.


AL 288-1, commonly known as Lucy, is a collection of several hundred pieces of fossilized bone representing 40% of a female of the hominin species Australopithecus afarensis. It was discovered in 1974 in Ethiopia by Donald Johanson of the Cleveland Museum of Natural History. The Lucy specimen is an early australopithecine and is dated to about 3.2 million years ago.  2016 study proposes that Australopithecus afarensis was to a large extent tree-dwelling, though the extent of this is debated, but it still provides valuable information as a link in evolution.


"Lucy" acquired her name from the 1967 song "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds" by the Beatles, which was played loudly and repeatedly in the expedition camp all evening after the excavation team's first day of work on the recovery site. After the public announcement of the discovery, Lucy captured much international interest, becoming a household name at the time. Lucy became famous worldwide, and the story of her discovery and reconstruction was published in a book by Johanson. Beginning in 2007, the fossil assembly and associated artifacts were exhibited publicly in an extended six-year tour of the United States; the exhibition was called Lucy's Legacy: The Hidden Treasures of Ethiopia. There was discussion of the risks of damage to the unique fossils, and other museums preferred to display casts of the fossil assembly. The original fossils were returned to Ethiopia in 2013, and subsequent exhibitions have used casts.

Ardi (ARA-VP-6/500) is the designation of the fossilized skeletal remains of an Ardipithecus ramidus, thought to be an early human-like female anthropoid 4.4 million years old. It is the most complete early hominid  specimen, with most of the skull, teeth, pelvis, hands and feet, more complete than the previously known specimen called "Lucy". In all, 125 different pieces of fossilized bone were found.


The Ardi skeleton was discovered at Aramis in the arid badlands near the Awash River in Ethiopia in 1994 by an Ethiopian college student now paleontologist, Yohannes Haile-Selassie, when he uncovered a partial piece of a hand bone. The discovery was made by a team of scientists led by UC Berkeley anthropologist, Tim D. White, and was analyzed by an international group of scientists.  On 1 October 2009, the journal Science published 11 articles, detailing many aspects of A. ramidus and its environment. Her fossils were also found near animal remains, indicating that she inhabited a forest type of environment, contrary to the theory that bipedalism originated in savannahs. With regards to Ardi's body composition, archaeologists note that she is unique in that she possesses traits that are characteristic of both extinct primates and early hominids. There is still a point of debate whether Ardi was capable of bipedal movement because of her divergent big toes.


Java Man, formerly also Anthropopithecus erectus, (Pithecanthropus erectus) is an early human fossil discovered in 1891 and 1892 on the island of Java (Indonesia). Estimated to be between 700,000 and 1,490,000 years old, it was, at the time of its discovery, the oldest hominid fossil ever found, and it remains the type specimen for Homo erectus. Led by Dutch paleontologist Eugène Dubois, the excavation team uncovered a tooth, a skullcap, and a thighbone on the banks of Solo River.   Believing he had found the "missing link" between apes and humans, Dubois gave the species the scientific name Anthropopithecus erectus.


Despite popularity and a lot of publication, few accepted that Java Man was a transitional form between apes and humans. Some dismissed the fossils as apes and others as modern humans, whereas many scientists considered Java Man as a primitive side branch of evolution not related to modern humans at all. To distinguish Java Man from other Homo erectus populations, some scientists began to regard it as a subspecies, Homo erectus erectus, in the 1970s. Other fossils found in the first half of the twentieth century in Java, all older than those found by Dubois, are also considered part of the species Homo erectus. The fossils of Java Man have been housed at the Rijksmuseum in the Netherlands since 1900.

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The Taung Child (or Taung Baby) is the fossilised skull of a young Australopithecus africanus. It was discovered in 1924 by quarrymen working for the Northern Lime Company in Taung, South Africa. Using explosive, they cleared the area of sandstone and uncovered fossils. Australian anthropologist, Raymond Dart described it as a new species in the journal Nature in 1925. The Taung skull is in repository at the University of Witwatersrand of South Africa and has called it "the most important anthropological fossil of the twentieth century."

In 1924, workers at the Buxton Limeworks, near Taung, showed a fossilized primate skull to E. G. Izod, the visiting director of the Northern Lime Company. The director gave it to his son, Pat Izod, who displayed it on the mantle over the fireplace. When Josephine Salmons, a friend of the Izod family, paid a visit to Pat's home, she noticed the primate skull, identified it as from an extinct monkey and realised its possible significance to her mentor, Raymond Dart. Only forty days after he first saw the fossil, Dart completed a paper that named the species of


Australopithecus africanus, the "southern ape from Africa", and described it as "an extinct race of apes intermediate between living anthropoids and man". The paper appeared in the 7 February 1925 issue of the journal Nature. The fossil was soon nicknamed the Taung Child. It began fervent debate whether this fossil was of a young ape or an ancestor of modern humans. It took decades to confirm Dart's theory, but finally in 1947 at a Pan African Congress on Prehistory, Dart got the recognition he deserved. 

Reasons for dissent in the early 1900s:

1) Scientists human ancestors to have evolved a large brain very early, they found that the Taung Child's small brain and human-like teeth made it an unlikely ancestor to modern humans. 

2) Until the 1940s, most anthropologists believed that humans had evolved in Asia, not in Africa. 

3)  Many anthropologists believed that the genus Homo had split from the great apes as long as 30 million years ago and so felt uneasy about accepting that humans had a small-brained, ape-like ancestor, like Australopithecus africanus, only two million years ago.

Interestingly, in 2006, South African paleontologist Lee Berger announced the Taung Child probably was killed by an eagle or other large predatory bird, citing the similarity of the damage to the skull and eye sockets (talon marks) of the Taung Child to that seen in modern primates that are known to have been killed by eagles. 

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The Oldowan or Mode I was a type of stone tools in prehistory. These early tools were simple, usually made with one or a few flakes chipped off with another stone. Oldowan tools were used during the Lower Paleolithic period, 2.9 million years ago up until at least 1.7 million years ago, by ancient Hominins across much of Africa. While crude from today's perspective, these tools gave a tremendous evolutional advantage to our ancestors. They gave us access to new sources of food and allowed us to process other raw materials, such as wood and bone. 

The Oldowan industry's name stems from Olduvai Gorge in Tanzania, which is a 50 km-long rift full of significant paleoanthropological findings. It was here that the couple Mary and Louis Leakey discovered various artifacts and prehistoric fossils during their excavations. 

In 2023, archaeologists have discovered distinctive stone tools at a site in Kenya that may be up to 3 million years old, making them the oldest of their kind. Even more surprising, the tools were found alongside fossils from the hominin Paranthropus, which is not an ancestor of modern humans. Some anthropologists believed that Homo hominins—who definitely used stone tools—were thought to be smarter, and because Paranthropus had large teeth and jaws, which meant they may not have required tools to process food. 

The makers of Oldowan tools employed least-effort flaking strategies. At the heart of their technique lay fissile rocks, like volcanic stones and quartzites. These so-called "cores" were 

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rested upon a stable surface and struck with a hammerstone. Using the right impact and angle will produce a thin, sharp stone flake. The invention of Oldowan tools might have occurred from a need to access new sources of food. The discovery of these new tools affirms some new speculations that non-homos also used tools and that hunting and butchering may have happened earlier than previously believed. 


Paranthropus robustus is a species of robust australopithecine from the Early and possibly Middle Pleistocene of the Cradle of HumankindSouth Africa, about 2.27 to 0.87 million years ago. Robust australopithecines—as opposed to gracile australopithecines—are characterised by heavily built skulls capable of producing high stresses and bite forces, as well as inflated cheek teeth.

The first remains, a partial skull including a part of the jawbone (TM 1517), were discovered in June 1938 at the Kromdraai cave site, South Africa, by local schoolboy Gert Terblanche. He gave the remains to South African conservationist Charles Sydney Barlow, who then relayed them to Robert Broom, South African palaeontologist. In the early1900s, there was a lot of contention about its classification. 

In 2021, archeologists Jesse Martin and Angeline Leece found the DNH 155 Paranthropus robustus craniumin (skull) the sediments of Drimolen Cave, South Africa, dated to be 2 million years old. It is the world’s oldest, best-preserved representative of Paranthropus robustus, which went extinct 1-1.4 million years ago. First described by Robert Broom in 1938, the species is considered a cousin of Homo sapiens rather than a direct ancestor. Indeed, around 2 million years ago 


ago Paranthropus robustus appears on the landscape at roughly the same time as our direct ancestor, Homo erectus. These two vastly different species – Homo erectus with their relatively large brains and small teeth, and Paranthropus robustus with their relatively large teeth and small brains– represent divergent evolutionary experiments.

Interestingly, comparing the DNH 155 cranium to other fossils found at the cradle of civilization, scientists have the first highly resolved evidence for small-scale, microevolutionary change in a human species over a relatively short timescale and in a restricted geographic area due to climate change.

Before animals crawled out of the sea and spread onto land, the appearance of jaws marked a significant time in the development of nearly all living vertebrates, including humans. From vocalising to biting food, the jaw is essential to the survival of 99.8 percent of living vertebrates. Only a few vertebrates, such as lampreys and hagfish, have made it to modern times without jaws. In 2022, Chinese palaeontologists Min Zhu and Qiang Li and international collaborators present astoundingly complete fossils of these earliest known jawed vertebrates, including bones and teeth from fish estimated to have lived between 439 million and 436 million years ago, millions of years before animals moved onto land. 

Remains found in Chongqing, China include a new inch-long close cousin to sharks, as well as a newfound type of early armoured fish. In addition, fossils found farther south in Guizhou include the spines of an ancient shark cousin and the oldest known teeth of a jawed vertebrate—tiny semicircular arcs of pointy teeth, barely a few millimetres across.  Tujiaaspis vividus,  named for China’s Tujia ethnic population, turns out to be closely related to a group of jawed fishes called galeaspids

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As archeologists around the world uncover new discoveries and develop new interpretation with the help of technology and international collaboration, it is hard to think of a potential find that will rock the world. One determining factor would be "if the discovery disproves some of our pre-existing theories about life and the development of civilization." History tells us with each new age (discovery of genes, space exploration, fossil hunting, high-tech archeology), certain beliefs are dispelled (geocentricism, spontaneous evolution, human ancestry began in Asia), and new theories provide new direction also opens new areas of discovery. 

Consider the use of AI to win the Vesuvius Challenge by translating ancient scrolls—and the idea of applying the same approach to papyri damaged at Herculaneum. Is it worth spending this many resources to read ancient documents with little modern-day significance? What exactly are we looking for?

Personally, we think it is a worthy cause, because uncovering history sheds light on our own development and the process creates new bonds, practices and technology that benefits our future. We are funding and inventing to not only read the scrolls but to grow and learn per our humanity. More world leaders, institutions and governments should get involved!

Mount Vesuvius eruption nearly 2,000 years ago caused many papyrus scrolls to be unreadable due to the heat and ash that destroyed Pompeii. Tech titan Elon Musk has said he will provide financial support to a project that uses artificial intelligence (AI) to decode ancient scrolls that have been unreadable for centuries. Who knew Elon was a history fan!

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The Vesuvius Challenge, is a competition to read ancient scrolls launched in 2023 by Brent Seales, a computer scientist at the University of Kentucky, and Silicon Valley backers. A team of three computer-savvy students, Youssef Nader (Germany), Luke Farritor (USA), and Julian Schilliger (Switzerland), won the $700,000 prize early February 2024 after using AI to read the hidden text of charred scrolls, also known as the Herculaneum Papyri. They developed an AI and train the AI algorithms to detect the presence of ink. 

Upon their announcement on social media, Elon tweeted his support, “Whatever amount is useful. I’m in favour of civilisational enlightenment.” The next phase is to enable the team to read entire scrolls. It is estimated to cost around $2 million and all the Herculaneum Papyri could cost $10 million, according to Nat Friedman, a US tech executive and founding sponsor of the challenge.


Voice-dubbing and subtitles are the two main ways that audiences can enjoy works in other languages. But neither is ideal: voice dubbing can be low in quality and out-of-sync, taking people out of the performance, and subtitles can be untrue to the original text while also taking away from the experience of hearing and reacting to words one at a time. Now, AI can dub footage with simulations of the original speaker’s actual voice in a different language, and as closely in sync to the movements of their lips as possible. Check out this demonstration, then discuss with your team: will such AI-enabled translation lead to more works being produced in more languages? Would you want to use it in your personal life?

Blogger Cleo Abram: "I made a voice clone, and it speaks every language. The craziest part is that it not only sounds like I’m speaking a new language, but it LOOKS like it too. I made this clone using AI video translation tool created by HeyGen. But Spotify just launched a similar feature to let podcasters translate their voices! And YouTube just announced a similar feature called Aloud, which will let creators dub their content into a different language. Welcome to the world of voice cloning" 

Benefits: reach millions of people and break the language barrier. editing to enable cultural nuances. 

Concerns: security. mimicking someone's voice and getting them to say anything. Currently, the versions do not AI-simulate your voice or mouth movements. So, it's not a deep-fake. Thank goodness!

I see a lot of practicality with this in terms of learning and bridging cultural gaps, especially while traveling or communicating with people who are more comfortable in another language. Generic translators might be out of jobs. But, for cinema and TV, I believe that top-rated voice dubbers will continue to be around, for they give the voice personality, life and richness - they elevate speaking into artistry. 

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When the Library of Alexandria burned down, it meant the loss of countless documents that had never been converted into PDFs. The collection at the House of Wisdom was destroyed when the Mongols swept by. Explore some of the largest libraries in the world today, then discuss with your team: would we notice if they disappeared?


There weren't many people writing things down back in the days of Ancient Greece (most people were illiterate), which is why it was such a tragedy when the Library of Alexandria, one of the most expansive collections of texts in classical civilization, was burned to the ground. How it burned down is still a mystery.

The city Alexandria was built by Alexander the Great and his successor Pharaoh, Ptolemy I Soter, founded the Royal Library of Alexandria. Modeled after the Lyceum of Aristotle in Athens. Like a modern university, it

boasted gardens, lecture areas, even a zoo and contained over half a million documents spanning Assyria, Greece, Persia, Egypt, India and many other nations, with over 100 scholars translating, editing, and researching. 

Suspect 1: Julius Caesar. He chased Pompey's army to Egypt and set fire to the harbor, accidentally burning down the library. Of course, Caesar did not mention it himself (bias!) but if he did, there should be some documents to prove it.


Suspect 2: Religious conflict. This was noted in Edward Gibbon's "The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire" (a famous book on this subject). Alexandria was a place where Jews, Christians and Greek religious followers gathered and had many violent conflicts. It all happened with Temple of Serapis (a small sister library) was converted into a Christian Church. Riots broke out and religious leaders were killed, including the bloody murder of Hypatia, the last Head Librarian. Christians retaliated and finally burned down the library.

Suspect 3: Muslim Caliph Omar. In 640 AD, Muslims took over the city and when asked about the great library, Omar said, ""they will either contradict the Koran, in which case they are heresy, or they will agree with it, so they are superfluous." The scrolls were used as tinder for the bathhouses and it took 6 months to burn everything. These were according to Christian Bishop Gregory Bar Hebræus (bias alert!). 

All three accounts show significant bias politically and religiously. More likely it slowly dwindled, and it was destroyed, which is really tragic!

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Under the authority of Caliph al-Mansur, the new capital moved from Damascus to Baghdad, moving its collection of scrolls, and Muslim conquests and imperial growth began to foster cultural appreciation.  Khizanat-al-Hikma or the ‘Storehouse of Wisdom’ was a great private library in Bagdad of Abbasid Caliphs (Muslim leaders) in the late 8th century, and later it became a public library to encourage education.

Ancient works in many languages (Pahlavi, Syriac, Greek, and Sanskrit) were translated into Arabic. This was the most well-respected education hub of that era - also known as the Islamic Golden Age, when education, culture, and economy flourished. Sadly, Mongols invaded in1200s, looting the palaces and threw the library into the Tigris River, which ran black for 6 months. 

"The level of pillage, destruction, and atrocities that Baghdad had to go through is unimaginable. The Caliph was immediately executed, while the locals were massacred on a large scale." The books were torn, with their leather covers turned into sandals. Historian Michael H. Harris wrote that so many books were thrown in the river that it made a bridge that could support a man riding on horseback.  

Here is a countdown of the most impressive and extensive libraries in the world! 

10. The Danish Royal Library - Based in Copenhagen, it the largest library in the Nordic countries and has a giant collection of Dutch literature spanning medieval ages from 1482,  to harvest and legal info since 1600s.

9. National Library of China - Based in Beijing, it is the largest library in Asia, boasting a collection of over 33.78 million items. It is a legal depository for copies of domestic publications, a role which it has had since 1916. As expected, it also holds the largest collections of Chinese literature and historical documents in the world.

8. National Diet Library of Japan - With facilities in Tokyo and Kyoto, it was established in 1948. It has a collection size of about 35.6 million items, including major collections of Japanese political history documents, map collections, rare and old books up to the Japanese  Edo dynasty and the Chinese Qing Dynasty. The entire collection is searchable via an Online Public Access Catalogue (OPAC).

7. National Library of Russia - Russia makes the list, not once, but twice! Located in St. Petersburg, it is the oldest public library in the nation, established by Empress Catherine the Great in 1795. It has over 36.5 million items and began a large-scale digitization at the end of 1900s. 

6. National Library of France - It has a fascinating history as intriguing as the nation itself. It traces its origins to 1368 and moved location several times until its inauguration at the current location in Paris in 1996. 

5. Russian State Library - The second library in the top 10 to come from Russia. Located in Moscow, it has over 275km of shelves lined with more than 43 million items. It was founded in 1862, and re-organized by Vladimir Lenin, who had studied libraries in Russia and Western Europe.

4. New York Public Library - This iconic location has been featured in many films and literature works. It has nearly 52 million items serving 17 million patrons. It is a participant of the Google Books Library Project and its digital collection is available online.

3. Library and Archives Canda - Established in 2004 in the city of Ottawa, combining the functions of the National Archives of Canada and the National Library of Canada founded in 1953, it is a relatively young library. However, its 54 million plus items secures its place as the third largest library in the world, which is no small feat.

2. British Library - The British Library collection in London currently stands at more than 150 million items. It acts as a legal deposit library and therefore automatically receives a copy of every publication produced in the UK and Ireland, adding 3 million new items every year (both local and international). Over 16,000 people visit daily. Its collection include the Magna Carta, the Beatles manuscripts and the recording of former South African president Nelson Mandela’s Rivonia Trial Speech.

1. Library of Congress - With a catalogue size of over 160 million items and budget of over US$600 million per year, the Library of Congress is the biggest library in the world both by catalog size and budget. It is officially meant for use by the Congress of the United States (anyone wondering how much they actually use it?), but it is also open for academic research to anyone with a Reader Identification Card, although books can only be used on the premises.

It is housed in 3 buildings on the Capitol – the Thomas Jefferson Building (built in 1897) , the John Adams Building (1938) and the James Madison Memorial Building, completed in 1981. Founded in 1800, it was burnt by the Brits in 1814 and had its catalog replenished by purchasing Thomas Jefferson’s private collection of 6,487 books. It holds a rough draft of the Declaration of Independence and one of only three perfect vellum copies of the Gutenberg Bible. Watch the second film in National Treasure.

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After the fall of the Soviet Union, statues of Josef Stalin and other heroes of the regime were quickly pulled down—but now many are on display at Moscow’s Muzeon Park of Arts. Discuss with your team: when monuments of past regimes are deemed unacceptable, should they be melted down, displayed in a new location, or put in storage? Are there some historical artifacts unfit to be shown at all in the modern world, even as examples of what could possibly go wrong?


This fascinating park is the final resting place for the many Soviet statues evicted from Russia’s parks and squares following the collapse of Communism. Founded in 1992, the park has been accumulating monuments for over 20 years, and today its collection comprises more than 700 sculptures.  Highlights include the huge steel sculpture of the Soviet world, innumerable giant pedestal-less Lenins, monuments to the Red Army, and a de-nosed Stalin. If you like studying the Cold War, this is a cool destination. 

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This is a popular WSC debate. Should statues of racist leaders be taken down? Some support being politically correct, other argue against judging people of the past with the lens of presentism. Nevertheless, it is a global issue. While the United States grapples with how to deal with roughly 1,500 symbols of the Confederacy in the wake of the violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, other nations have taken more decisive action on the monuments of defeated governments.

President Donald Trump this week made the argument that the removal of Confederate monuments could lead down a slippery slope to the taking down of monuments to the Founding Fathers; he also implied the removal of Confederate monuments was tantamount to changing history. 

“If you look at it from a world perspective, is that you’ll have a regime that is overthrown, and one of the reactions to the overthrow is the destruction of symbols that represent it,” said Stovall, professor of history at UC Santa Cruz, citing the toppling of the Soviet Union and, more recently, the tearing down of the statue of Saddam Hussein in Iraq in 2003 and the destruction of images of Hosni Mubarak in Egypt in 2011 at the height of the Arab Spring.

In post-World War II Germany, Nazi symbols that weren’t destroyed during the war were ordered demolished by the Allied Control Council. Any further creation of Nazi symbols or propaganda was also banned. Germany would later codify this ban into their criminal code. In Berlin, the headquarters of the Nazi secret police, the SS leadership offices, and the Reich Security Main Office were razed in the aftermath of the war and now serves as an education center.

Following the end of the Cold War and the collapse of the Soviet Union, the statue of “Iron Felix” and other Cold War icons now resides in Muzeon Park of the Arts. A curator of the park told Public Radio International that “the approach to the park is entirely historical, for the simple reason that the responsibility of any museum is to collect, store, protect and display.”

Similar parks exist elsewhere in the former Soviet Union. In Budapest’s Memento Park, 42 pieces of art from the post-World War II communist era are on display.

In Spain, a law of “historical memory” was passed in 2007 to provide reparation and recognition to those who suffered during the country’s civil war. The law includes a provision about monuments to Francisco Franco, who ruled over the country as a repressive dictator for nearly four decades. The law instructs the government to take measures to remove shields, insignia, plaques and other objects or mentions commemorating the military uprising, civil war or dictatorship. However, objects with artistic, architectural or religious significance are protected.

Richmond, Virginia, removed likenesses of Confederate generals after 2020’s protests. Now they’re in a statue graveyard. In addition to racist statues and memorabilia. The stone and bronze generals and politicians were removed from the streets by the city council in the aftermath of protests that broke out in May 2020, following the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Minnesota.  

Should they be returned to the streets, or destroyed? Should they be contextualized and put on display? Or perhaps the bronze should be melted down, with the hundreds of tons of marble and granite put to use elsewhere? Mary C Lauderdale – the Black History Museum’s director of collections – is clear on two things: that the decision will be made “in agreement with the community” (“we’re already surveying the residents”, she notes) and that she doesn’t want the statues in the museum’s headquarters – a former barracks that housed Virginia’s first detachment of Black soldiers. “[The statues] are too big for our space… [they] would require us to strengthen security against possible attacks by white supremacist groups,” she adds.

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