Fossils offer new insight into human evolution

A
a
-
Fossils offer new insight into human evolution

Scientists examining the fossilised bones of a foot found in Ethiopia in 2009 believe the remains indicate that the human ancestor from whom they came could walk upright at times. The specimens, which consist of eight elements from the forefoot – bones such as metatarsals and phalanges – are thought to be more than 3.4 million years old. Experts believe they demonstrate that there was more than one pre-human species living in East Africa between three and four million years ago. The evidence, published in the journal Nature, states that the finds are different to the remains of another human ancestor, (Australopithecus afarensis), whose remains were first identified in the 1970s. Named ‘Lucy’, the afarensis fossils showed that her body was built for walking; her big toe was aligned with the other four digits of the foot, and she had a human-like arch.

 
 

Europe’s “earliest string instrument” found in Skye

 
Archaeologists excavating a cave on Skye believe they have found the remains of the earliest stringed instrument ever found in western Europe. The small burnt and carved piece of wood is thought to have once been part of the bridge of a lyre, and could be over 2,300 years old. Found in High Pasture Cave, a site known for its Bronze and Iron Age finds, the object was recovered from the rake-out deposits from a large slab-built hearth outside the cave entrance. According to Cambridge music archaeologist Dr Graeme Lawson, the earliest known lyres date from about 5,000 years ago, in Iraq, and were complicated and finely-made structures. The find, he believes, “confirms the continuity of a love of music amongst the Western Celts.”
 
 

Stewed penguin, and turtle soup for Scott and his men

 
One hundred years after Captain Robert Falcon Scott’s ill-fated expedition to the South Pole, experts at the Scott Polar Research Institute in Cambridge have been assessing the impact the team’s diet would have had on its chances of survival. While meals inside the wooden hut at Cape Evans consisted of a wide variety of food, including seal meat, stewed penguin, and turtle soup, rations for the five men on the final journey to the pole were quite different. Georgina Cronin, of the institute, believes Scott and his men underestimated the calories needed for pulling their own sledges in Antarctica, a fact that contributed to their suffering. Rations consisted of pemmican (ground meat mixed with fat), and biscuits baked by one of the expedition's commercial sponsors, which was often turned into a stew. But some experts believe this high-protein diet was probably not good for them. Hauling a sledge demands an intake of around 6,000 to 7,000 calories a day, but Dr Stroud, also from the institute, estimates Scott and his team would have had a deficit of around 3,000 calories a day.
 
 

Hoard of Roman coins found in Bath

 
More than 30,000 silver coins have been unearthed by archaeologists in Bath, a find believed to be the fifth largest hoard ever discovered in Britain and the largest from a Roman settlement. The coins, which were discovered about 450 feet from the city’s historic Roman baths, are thought to date from AD 270 and may have been hidden during a time of unrest in the Roman empire. The coins were found fused together in a large block and it could take experts up to 12 months to analyse them.
 
 

Archaeologists scan Neolithic horned cairns

 
A team of archaeologists has scanned seven Neolithic horned cairns before 21 turbines are erected in the area. The 5,000-year-old Neolithic structures, which are sited at Hill of Shebster, near Thurso, in Caithness, were once used for burials and rituals, and 300 new Bronze and Iron Age sites have been recorded as part of the scanning project. Three-dimensional images of the horned cairns, which measure more than 60 metres in length, have been produced from the scans.
 

 

Beatrix Potter letter auctioned in London

 
A letter written by author Beatrix Potter has sold for £750 at auction in London, around £250 less than the price it was expected to reach. The letter, which is written on black-edged mourning paper and dated 25 March 1933, recommends a gardener employed by Potter’s late mother at her home in Cumbria, and is signed by HB Heelis, the author's married name. The letter was bought by a private collector from North America.
 

 

Mozart composition discovered in Austria

 
A piano composition thought to have been written by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart when he was just ten years old has been uncovered in an attic in Austria. Believed to have been composed in 1767 or 1768, the piece was transcribed into a notebook, dated 1780, bearing the name Del Signore Giovane Wolfgango Mozart. Although the music was not written in the hand of Mozart or his father Leopold, historians at Salzburg's Mozarteum foundation strongly believe the piece is by Mozart. The 160-page notebook also contains musical works written by Mozart's father.
 
 
Charlotte Hodgman

 

Charlotte Hodgman is Features Editor for BBC History Magazine 

April issue out now
previous blog Article
The new deacon
next blog Article