Cave discovery shakes up our understanding of the Stone Age


(CNN) — Many people are familiar with the African roots of the human family tree. In recent years, a deluge of exciting fossils and TBEN discoveries in Asia has prompted a radical rethink of our family saga.

It’s there that entirely new species of extinct humans have been unearthed — including relatives nicknamed little hobbits and the burly dragon man — as well as three little pigs painted on a cave wall that turned out to be the world’s oldest figurative art.

This week, prepare to be amazed by another tantalizing fossil find from the region that shows just how sophisticated and knowledgeable our ancient ancestors really were.

We are family

In a remote cave in Indonesia’s Borneo, archaeologists have made a discovery that is revolutionizing our understanding of the Stone Age: an amputee who lived 31,000 years ago.

The young individual’s skeleton was missing his left lower leg, which Australian and Indonesian researchers believe had been carefully chopped off just above the ankle by a surprisingly skilled prehistoric surgeon, probably using stone tools.

Only a century ago, most amputees would have died – either from blood loss and shock or from subsequent infection.

Not only was this operation successful in the Stone Age, but the amputee lived another six to nine years, eventually dying of natural causes before being carefully buried by caretakers, according to research.

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Scientists from the University of Cambridge in the United Kingdom have created synthetic mouse embryos in a lab scale – an exciting advance that could eventually lead to new fertility treatments.

Without using sperm or egg, the researchers produced an embryo that developed a beating heart and brain from the stem cells of mice.

By observing the embryos at this stage of life in a lab rather than in a womb, the scientists gained a better understanding of the mystifying process to learn why a pregnancy might fail and how to prevent this loss.

They hope to move from mouse embryos to making models of natural human pregnancies — many of which fail in the early stages.

Fantastic creatures

The earliest mammal known to science, Brasilodon quadrangularis, was a shrew-like creature. It shot at the feet of the first dinosaurs 225 million years ago.

In a case of mistaken identity, investigators thought rather the little animal was a reptile.

Now a new study has revealed: it was “definitely” a mammal, thanks to clues from three fossilized jawbones that belonged to the long-extinct creature.

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The discovery will help paleontologists better understand the evolution of modern mammals.

Defying gravity

What’s going on with NASA’s Artemis I mission after two failed attempts to launch its mega-moon rocket?

The space agency postponed a third attempt to September 23 or September 27 — or maybe longer if engineers find a way to fix a hydrogen fuel leak.

Complicating matters are the changeable weather in Florida, with the hurricane season in full swing, and existing commitments: NASA expects the launch of the Crew-5 mission, which will bring a new team of astronauts to the International Space Station on October 3 aboard a SpaceX rocket.

For now, the moon rocket remains on the launch pad while engineers replace the seal at an interface between the liquid hydrogen supply line and the launch vehicle.

However, the colossal rocket may have yet to roll back to the Kennedy Space Center’s Vehicle Assembly Building.

Mission critical

Located in West Antarctica and sometimes referred to as the “doomsday glacier,” Thwaites Glacier has been a source of concern to scientists for decades, fearing the extreme sea level rise that would accompany its possible demise.

Geophysicists have mapped the historic retreat of the Florida-sized glacier, hoping to learn from the past what is likely to happen in the future.

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The research team found that at some point over the past two centuries, the glacier’s base lifted off the seafloor and retreated at twice the rate scientists have observed in the past decade.

The glacier has the ability to quickly retreat once it retreats along a seafloor ridge that keeps it in check, the findings show. More simply, it’s holding on “by its fingernails,” as a marine geophysicist involved in the study explained.

The miracle

Dive into these captivating stories:

— Our impression of space may seem tiny compared to its vastness, but a space environmentalist says we should start treating it like an ecosystem. This is his vision to protect the interior space from orbital debris.

— Zero Waste: Human poop is a vastly untapped and undervalued natural resource that could revolutionize the way we live, according to a new book.

— A giant space tarantula has been captured by a Webb — NASA’s highly sensitive James Webb space telescope.


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