Happy four-hundredth anniversary of Shakespeare's death! Researchers for an upcoming documentary on the Bard just discovered that his skull's not in his grave. Whoops?
A team of European paleontologists have described s nine million-year-old rhinoceros skull in a nearly unbelievable state of preservation
, thanks to the fact that it once belonged to a rhino who suffered the unlucky fate of being flash-cooked in volcanic ash.
While it sounds like a pretty terrible way to go for the rhino, the immaculately preserved skull is a boon for researchers, who are getting a better look at the ancient mammal than they ever thought possible.
A newly discovered canine skull dating back 33,000 years may be some of the earliest evidence for dog domestication ever found. The skull was unearthed in a cave in the Siberian Altai
mountains by an international team of Russian-led archaeologists.
The skull shows a mixture of traits seen in dogs and wolves. The snout is similar in size to early domesticated dogs in Greenland from around 1,000 years ago, but its large teeth are closer to those found in 31,000-year-old European wolves. The study
, which was published in the journal PLoS One
, suggests that the newly found skull may be from a dog in the extremely early stages of domestication.
Though it sounds like something out of Conan The Barbarian
, researchers have announced that ice age bones in Gough's Cave
seem to indicate ancient Britons
used skulls as cups
. Other bones in the site were also apparently cleaned of flesh and marrow, raising the grim possibility that a cannibalistic
meal accompanied whatever was in the skull cups.
The report concludes
that the skull cups were some 14,700 years old, making them the oldest found and the only skull cups in the British Isles. But the use and purpose of the skulls is a matter of pure speculation, as is the fate of the cleaned bones' previous owners. From Reuters
They may have been killed, butchered and eaten -- with the skull-cups just the end of this event -- or may have been part of the group who died and were eaten in a crisis situation, with the skull-cups created as a tribute to the dead.
"We simply do not know," [the researchers] said in a joint emailed response to questions.
Perhaps some might see this as embarrassing, with their ancestors displaying rather distasteful behavior. However, I find it best to take history in stride, and congratulate the British as confirming, archeologically, that their ancestors were totally badass.
, image via Wired