Potential Therizinosaur Track Discovered in Alaska

Footprint Suggests Therizinosaurs may have Roamed Northern Latitudes

Located approximately 240 miles north of the Alaskan state’s largest city of Anchorage, the vast Denali National Park, has provided palaeontologists with a tantalising clue as to what strange beasts may have wandered this area in the Late Cretaceous, something like seventy million years ago.

The National Park, home to Mount McKinley,  with a summit at 6,193 metres above sea level, the highest peak in North America, may also have been home to a bizarre group of Theropod dinosaurs that converted from a meat-eating diet to a herbivorous one – the bizarre Therizinosaurs.  A single four-toed footprint suggests that these Cretaceous dinosaurs, otherwise known as “Scythe Lizards” may have roamed the Alaskan landscape.

David Tomeo, the programme director for the Murie Science and Learning Centre located at Denali Park was wandering along a dried up river bed in the summer of 2010, when he spotted a strange raised impression.  His mind was on all things Dinosauria as he was up there preparing a student field trip to explore the Park’s dinosaur discoveries, however, he did not expect to be confronted by what turned out to be a single dinosaur footprint.  He was confident that the footprint did represent a dinosaur, but what sort of dinosaur could have made that track?  The difficulty for David, was that he thought he could make out four toe impressions, most Theropods (other than Dromaeosaurs) walked on three toes and as a result left three-toed fossilised prints.  Several photographs of the strange footprint, preserved in the mudstone were taken and these were sent to Tony Fiorillo, the curator of palaeontology at the Museum of Nature and Science in Dallas (Texas) who has studied the dinosaur fossils found in northern Alaska.

Strange Dinosaur Footprint Preserved in the Mudstone

Therizinosaur Track Discovered

Picture Credit: David Tomeo

A battery (AA) has been put in the picture to provide a scale.

Dr. Fiorillo and his colleagues, after a careful of examination of the evidence and a visit to the Park to view the specimen in situ, have identified the print as having been made by a Therizinosaur.  This is the first time fossils from this sort of dinosaur have been found at such a northerly latitude.   Therizinosaurs are a rare and exclusively Cretaceous clade of the Order Theropoda.  These creatures had short legs, stocky bodies with long necks and small heads.  Scientists still debate whether these animals were entirely vegetarian.  The arms were relatively long and the three-fingered hands had enormous, flattened claws.  Importantly they walked on four toes and they were bipedal.  Most of the Therizinosaur fossils found to date have come from Asia, where they are believed to have first evolved, but one of the most complete specimens ever found was discovered in North America (western United States), this Therizinosaur was named and described in 2001, it is known as Nothronychus mckinleyi.

An Illustration of a Typical Therizinosaur (Nothronychus mckinleyi)

Nothronychus illustrated.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

It seems sometime in the Cretaceous, these types of dinosaur migrated across a land bridge linking Asia to North America, probably where the Bering Strait can be found today.  Intriguingly, the Alaskan footprint is something like twenty million years older than the fossils ascribed to Nothronychus.  Does this indicate several migrations taking place between the Americas and Asia during the Late Cretaceous, or is the Alaskan trace fossil evidence of a population of Therizinosaurs being resident in northern latitudes?

The Alaskan Therizinosaur Trackway (Print Outlined)

The print is highlighted in red

Picture Credit: David Tomeo/Everything Dinosaur

To help readers discern the footprint, team members at Everything Dinosaur have highlighted the approximate outline in red.

During the Late Cretaceous, Alaska was actually nearer to the North Pole than it is today.   Although the climate would have been warmer, it would still have been a tough, harsh environment for animals to live in.  There was no permanent snow covering, although it probably did snow from time to time.  The landscape would have been dominated by dense conifer forests with an understorey of flowering plants and ferns.  For four months of the year, the region would have been plunged into darkness as the sun dipped below the horizon.  There would have been a short summer season with 24-hours of daylight with the sun never setting, but even with this permanent daylight, climatologists estimate that the maximum day time temperature was rarely above 13 degrees Celsius.  There is fossil evidence to suggest that there were permanent dinosaur residents in this part of the world during the Late Cretaceous.  Palaeontologists can only speculate whether the bizarre Therizinosaurs were part of this permanent fauna or whether they were seasonal migrants, moving north to take advantage of the rich summer plant growth.

Dr. Fiorillo and his colleagues have recently published a scientific paper on the recording of the first evidence to suggest that Therizinosaurs roamed Alaska.  A number of other dinosaurs are known from this part of North America.  Fossils of the duck-billed dinosaur Edmontosaurus have been found, there is also evidence that horned dinosaurs may have been present .  It is likely that there were many predatory dinosaurs as well, perhaps following the herds of herbivores on their seasonal migrations just as packs of wolves follow the caribou today.  Palaeontologists have found fossils of a giant Troodontid (Dromaeosaur dinosaur), in Alaska.  The fossils indicate that this particular Theropod was perhaps four metres long, much bigger than Troodontids that lived further south.  This type of carnivorous dinosaur could have become specially adapted to living in the extreme climate of northern North America and it may have been a permanent resident in Alaska.

Ironically, in contrast to the relatively rich dinosaur fossil assemblage found in the strata of the Denali National Park, there are no species of reptile living in the Park today, the climate is just too severe and too cold for today’s cold-blooded reptiles.

Schleich Saurus Models Appear in the Guinness Book of Records 2013

Giganotosaurus and Quetzalcoatlus in Guinness Book of Records 2013

The new edition of the Guinness Book of Records has just been published.  This compendium of unusual facts and statistics comes out at this time of year and updates readers on record breaking feats and achievements.  It is a book that is targeted very much at the Christmas market and many people purchase this item each year so they can keep abreast of all the changing world records.  If there is an area of human endeavour, an aspect of the natural world – animal, vegetable or mineral it seems that somebody, somewhere, holds a record and the Guinness team have set about compiling a immense volume cataloguing it all.

Once again dinosaurs get a mention.  In the section detailing record breakers in the natural world, the size of some dinosaurs and how big they were in comparison to living animals today is provided.  There are so many types of record but the Dinosauria do get some space allocated to them every year.  However, this year, in a change from previous years, the majority of the animals, living or extinct in the section on animal records are represented by their Schleich model equivalents.  Two prehistoric animals, models from the Schleich Saurus series can be seen in the Guinness Book of Records book, the Quetzalcoatlus and the Saurus Giganotosaurus.

Featured in the Guinness Book of Records 2013

Prehistoric Animal Record Breakers

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

Both these prehistoric animals can be regarded as record breakers in their own way.  Giganotosaurus (G. carolini) is widely regarded as the largest meat-eating, terrestrial animal known to science (not including the Spinosaurus genus, although there are several other contenders*).  The Pterosaur Quetzalcoatlus (Q. northropi) is thought of as one of the largest flying animals of all time.  Palaeontologists estimate that some individual specimens may have had a wingspan in excess of eleven metres and, although it is difficult to estimate the weight of Pterosaurs a body weight of around 100 kilogrammes has been proposed.

Other Theropod contenders for the largest meat-eating, terrestrial animal:

  • Mapusaurus,
  • Carcharodontosaurus
  • Saurophaganax
  • Acrocanthosaurus
  • Tyrannosaurus rex

To name a few…

Safari Ltd Announces 2013 Prehistoric Animal Models

New Additions to Carnegie Collectibles Range and other Prehistoric Series from Safari Ltd

A sneak peek at the 2013 releases from Safari Ltd and it is great to see a number of exciting additions to the already extensive Safari Ltd replica range.  To celebrate the 25th anniversary of the relationship between the manufacturer and the Carnegie Museum of Natural History, a 1:25 scale model of the recently discovered Theropod Concavenator is being introduced.

Carnegie Collectibles Concavenator Model

Concavenator Dinosaur Model

Picture Credit: Safari Ltd/Everything Dinosaur

The model will measure nearly 18cm long and stand 9cm tall, an exciting new model for the Carnegie scale model dinosaur collectibles range.

Fans of Pterosaurs and marine reptiles won’t be disappointed as amongst the new additions to the Wild Safari Dinosaurs and Prehistoric Life series there is a colourful model of the Jurassic Pterosaur Dimorphodon and a model of an Elasmosaurus.

Taking to the Air in 2013 – Dimorphodon

Pterosaur for 2013

Picture Credit: Safari Ltd/Everything Dinosaur

The Dimorphodon will be approximately 13cm long (including tail) and have a wingspan in excess of 20cm.

Elasmosaurus Model from Safari Ltd

Cretaceous Plesiosaur

Picture Credit: Safari Ltd/Everything Dinosaur

The Elasmosaurus mode will measure approximately 25cm in length.

To view Everything Dinosaur’s existing Safari Ltd models: Safari Prehistoric Animal Models

Other new models in the Wild Safari Dinos (not to scale range) include the Hadrosaur, Gryposaurus from the Campanian faunal stage of North America, care has been taken to skilfully re-create the spiny ridge along this dinosaur’s back.

Wild Safari Gryposaurus

New Duck-billed Dinosaur for 2013

Picture Credit: Safari Ltd/Everything Dinosaur

This new Hadrosaur measures a little under 22cm long.

Not to be outdone the trend to include more Ceratopsians continues with a replica of Diabloceratops due out next year.  This horned dinosaur from Utah “Devil Horned Face” is bound to be a hit with model collectors.

Wild Safari Diabloceratops Dinosaur Model

“Devil Horned Face”

Picture Credit: Safari Ltd/Everything Dinosaur

One other interesting “new” Safari model is a reproduction of a Brachiosaurus in the Wild Safari range that resembles the older Brachiosaurid found in the Collectibles scale model range from this company (product code ref: 412001).  A more modern interpretation of a Brachiosaur was introduced into the Wild Dinos Safari range a couple of years back and now Safari have added a robust “swan-necked” Brachiosaurus to their not to scale range.

Brachiosaurid Replica Due out in 2013

A Traditional Brachiosaur interpretation?

Picture Credit: Safari Ltd/Everything Dinosaur

The Brachiosaur will measure approximately 30cm long and stand 35cm tall making it larger than the current Brachiosaurus model in the Wild Safari range.

Finally, in terms of new model introductions, there is exciting news for all fans of the “Terror Birds”, the long awaited Gastornis/Diatryma model is also going to be released next year – a sneaky peek below:

Terror Bird – Gastornis New for 2013

New for the Prehistoric Life Range – Gastornis

Picture Credit: Safari Ltd/Everything Dinosaur

The Gastornis model will measure 8.5cm by 7cm approximately.

So much for the vertebrate palaeontologists amongst you, but for once invertebrate palaeontologists have been remembered by Safari Ltd and the company is going to introduce a special tube set featuring fauna from the Cambrian geological period.  Based on fossil discoveries from the Burgess Shale this ten figure model set will feature iconic Palaeozoic creatures such as a Trilobite and Anomalocaris plus a model of England’s very own Charnia (hoorah for Leicestershire).

Cambrian Fauna (Tube Set) from Safari Ltd

Say hello to Cambrian Wildlife

Picture Credit: Safari Ltd/Everything Dinosaur

Team members at Everything Dinosaur will continue to keep model fans and collectors up to date with new 2013 introductions watch this space or check out Everything Dinosaur on Facebook or Google Plus for the latest news.

Everything Dinosaur on Facebook: Catch Up with Everything Dinosaur on Facebook

Check out Everything Dinosaur on Google Plus: Everything Dinosaur and Google+

Last Recommended Posting Dates for Christmas 2012

Christmas Posting Dates – Information

Halloween merchandise might be filling up the aisles in the shops but Christmas is only just round the corner.  There are only ninety days left before Christmas day, so time to start thinking about Christmas shopping, especially if you wish to send something overseas, a gift for a relative abroad and such like.  In a bid to help our customers, Everything Dinosaur will be extending our packing hours once again this Christmas and we will continue to pack and despatch goods for customers on Saturday mornings.  We genuinely try to do all we can to ensure items ordered from Everything Dinosaur are despatched as quickly as possible.

The information below is the guide published by Royal Mail as to the last safe posting dates for Christmas mail sent in the UK and overseas.

A Table Illustrating the Last Safe Posting Dates for Christmas

Recommended Last Posting Dates

Credit: Everything Dinosaur and Royal Mail

Staff at Everything Dinosaur will do all they can to assist customers and below is a list of helpful hints and tips about the Christmas post.  Please remember the dates listed above are guidelines only and they are the last recommended posting dates, the best advice we can give you is to post early for Christmas, in this way you are helping to ensure that parcels arrive in time for the big day.

1).  Remember to include the house number or house name with the delivery address information.

2).  Check postcode/zip code details carefully.

3).  Before pressing the “submit” button to send an order to Everything Dinosaur, check the delivery address one last time.

4). Remember, with PayPal, Google Checkout and our own website’s ordering process customers can write a message to us in the order message box.  You can write in confirmation of delivery address or any specific, relevant information required to help ensure a rapid delivery.

5).  If you want to specify a different delivery address to your billing address, our website allows you to do this easily and without fuss.

6).  If you want to send an item to your work address, please ensure that you include the company name in the delivery address information.

7).  For deliveries in the UK, Royal mail are running a “deliver to your neighbour” service, if you let us know that the parcel can be left with a neighbour, just let us know, remembering to tell us the house number and we will make sure this information is put on the front of your parcel for you.

If you have a query about Christmas deliveries, or indeed any aspect of Everything Dinosaur’s delivery service please feel free to contact us: Email Everything Dinosaur

To view the Everything Dinosaur website: Everything Dinosaur’s Website

The Dinosaur Dictionary (Book) Reviewed

A Review of the Dinosaur Dictionary (Book Review)

Many parents and guardians are keen to encourage reading and one way to motivate a child to read more is to provide them with books that they enjoy about subjects they are interested in.  Within the United Kingdom many primary schools are moving towards a more creative curriculum and dinosaurs are becoming increasingly popular with teachers and teaching assistants as a term topic.  Finding suitable reading materials to encourage young children to learn about science as well as to help develop their reading skills can be difficult.  However, with the advent of this child-friendly dinosaur dictionary we think this book is certainly a step in the right direction.

The Dinosaur Dictionary is aimed at children from four years and upwards and provides young palaeontologists with a handy dinosaur A-Z!  It is a colourful, child’s dictionary complete with a well thought out pronunciation guide to help children (and their parents), to pronounce the many complicated and lengthy prehistoric animal names contained in the sixty four pages of this book.

Dinosaur Dictionary – A Child-Friendly Dinosauria A-Z

Suitable for children aged 4 and over

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

There are over one hundred prehistoric animals and dinosaurs featured in the book, the vast majority from the Mesozoic Epoch, which is generally regarded as the “Age of Reptiles”.

The dictionary starts with the Late Cretaceous Titanosaur known as Alamosaurus.  This long-necked dinosaur that lived at the same time as Tyrannosaurus rex could well turn out to be one of the largest land living animals of all time, if recent fossil finds prove conclusive regarding this huge, herbivore’s size.  The dictionary provides a brief description of this dinosaur, and in common with all the other entries there is a colourful illustration of the creature and a black and white scale drawing showing size.  Each entry has plenty of facts about the particular animal being discussed and all the famous dinosaurs as well as some of the more unusual reptiles that shared their prehistoric world are included.

To view Everything Dinosaur’s range of dinosaur books and posters: Dinosaur Books and Posters

The last dinosaur listed is Zephyrosaurus (Hypsilophodontid dinosaur), one of the lesser known dinosaurs from the North American Cretaceous.  The book also includes a handy glossary and an short chapter introducing the Dinosauria, outlining when they lived and how they evolved.  The text is large and has been carefully compiled to enable young children to read the facts and figures about these prehistoric creatures with ease, there might be the odd scientific errata but the text and design of this book is aimed at delighting young dinosaur fans and helping them with their reading and it is likely that this publication will achieve these aims.

This young persons book is an excellent prehistoric animal A-Z!  A colourful dinosaur dictionary, complete with pronunciation guide, making sixty-four pages From Alamosaurus to Zephyrosaurus.  In summary,  a handy, well-illustrated guide to over one hundred dinosaurs and other prehistoric animals.
Horned Dinosaur Information in the Dinosaur Dictionary

Encouraging young people with their reading.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur
A typical entry from the Dinosaur Dictionary is shown above, the text is large and encourages reading in young people, there are lots of facts and each prehistoric animal featured is illustrated.
Interesting Fact:
There are more prehistoric animals represented under the letter “C” than under any other letter in the Dinosaur Dictionary.

Saltwater Crocodile Beheaded in Protest by Queenslanders

Locals Take Action to Cull Crocodiles as Fears over Attacks Increases

Queensland environmental officers have discovered the torso of a crocodile at a popular North Queensland beach and believe the animal was caught and beheaded by local residents protesting about the Governments failure to act to control crocodile numbers.  A local member of Parliament has commented that this beheading is a sign that Queenslanders have lost patience with the State and the National Government’s plans to manage the growing population of Saltwater crocodiles.

The body of the eight foot long reptile was discovered just yards from where a border collie dog, a pet of a local fisherman, was snatched and dragged into the water by a large predator a few days earlier.   Andrew Powell (Environment Minister), said in a statement that it appeared that the crocodile had been caught on a baited, stainless steel hook, this was found embedded in the animals torso.  Rangers discovered the body at Kewarra Beach, north of Cairns, a popular location with tourists and fishermen.  The officers had been at the beach, setting traps in a bid to catch the crocodile that killed the dog, tests are being carried out to see if the beheaded crocodile was responsible for the attack.

Although State officials are very aware of the concerns of residents, local people have been reminded that crocodiles remain a protected species and people illegally killing these reptiles can face fines of up to $24,000 AUD if caught and prosecuted.

In a bid to reassure residents, Mr Powell stated that the State Government was committed to a new crocodile management plan that would hopefully reduce the risk of attacks on people.  The plan entails putting in place a number of security measures to prevent large crocodiles entering areas used for swimming or for other water activities.  Crocodiles showing aggressive, unprovoked behaviour towards people are automatically removed to more remote wildlife habitats and there is a programme in place to routinely capture and remove any crocodile seen basking on ramps or marinas.

When asked to comment on this specific incident of the beheaded crocodile, Mr Powell said:

“We will take action to address this issue … but it is not safe or appropriate for anyone to take part in this sort of behaviour.”

Other politicians have commented that local residents are angry at what is seen to be a lack of action from State officials, the slaying of the crocodile is believed to be a sign that local people have lost faith in the authorities and are prepared to take matters into their own hands.

Although hunted to near extinction in the early part of the 2oth Century, Saltwater crocodile numbers in Queensland have been steadily increasing since 1970.  These crocodiles are man-eaters and even a relatively small specimen at a little over a metre in length is capable of inflicting severe injuries to a person should the crocodile be given the opportunity to grab them.  State officials are confident that the existing measures being implemented should be enough to reduce the risk of attacks, but local residents have been urged to take note of the numerous crocodile warning signs that are being placed alongside beaches, rivers and other stretches of water where large crocodiles have been spotted previously.

Fossil Hunting in London

Fossils are Abundant in London – If you Know Where to Look

When asked where to go fossil hunting many people advise a trip to the seaside to explore cliffs or perhaps a trip to a local quarry to study the sediment being exposed, but ironically if you know what to look for and where to look, a trip to a big city can yield a surprising number of exciting fossil discoveries.

A visit to London is no exception.  This city may not be the obvious choice for a person to go fossil hunting but amongst the paved streets and buildings, an observant palaeontologist can find some remarkable evidence of ancient life.  London itself, has yielded many important fossil discoveries the London clay preserves a sub-tropical, estuarine environment recording a rich diversity of life including crocodiles, turtles, birds, mammals and a number of plant fossils from a time after the extinction of the dinosaurs.  The fossilised bones of Pleistocene lions and hippos have been discovered by workmen digging under Trafalgar Square, but you don’t need to excavate or even to carry a geological hammer to find fossils in a place like London.  All you need are a sharp pair of eyes and a camera to record your discoveries.

Take a visit to St Paul’s Cathedral for example.  Whilst visitors are admiring the dome and the beautiful facia of the cathedral designed by Sir Christopher Wren, take a moment to examine the steps that lead up to the main entrance.  The polished flagstones that can be found at the top of the steps leading up to the main thoroughfare contain a number of very well-preserved specimens of ancient cephalopods.  The stone for these flags came from Sweden.  They represent marine strata laid down something like 480 million years ago in the Early Ordovician geological period (Tremadocian faunal stage).  Preserved as fossils in these stones are the remains of straight-shelled Nautiloids.  Nautiloids were actively swimming creatures distantly related to octopi and squid that lived in straight-chambered shells.  Some of these creatures evolved into huge predators, the first sea monsters that ever lived, with genera such as Cameroceras and Endoceras reaching lengths approaching ten metres.  These animals are only distantly related to the modern Nautilus but they had basically the same body plan.  Their long conical shells were divided internally into many chambers, these were joined by a long tube that was used to control the amount of water in each of the chambers (siphuncle).  The largest,  end chamber housed the actual animal with its head, powerful beak and grasping tentacles.

Ordovician Nautiloids at St Paul’s Cathedral

Fossils to be seen in London

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur (Geologist provides foot for scale)

The fossils seen on the steps of St Paul’s do not represent huge specimens but the individual chambers (septa) of the shells can be clearly made out as the specimens are viewed in cross-section. Some of these fossils are more than thirty centimetres in length.

Much of the stone used to build the Cathedral is Portland stone.  This limestone, quarried from Portland in Dorset, was formed in a shallow, tropical Jurassic sea towards the end of this geological period (Tithonian faunal stage).  This type of stone adorns many of the well-known public buildings of London.   The white/grey limestone has been used as a building material in the United Kingdom since Roman times.  The splendid Guildhall of London, built in the fifteenth Century, is one such building and a careful examination of the stone blocks that make up the facia of the building opening out into the main courtyard, can yield some fossil finds for an observant palaeontologist.  The internal moulds of gastropods (snails), their argonite shells long dissolved away have been preserved, these are known as “Portland screws” as they are locally abundant in Portland limestone.  Alongside the gastropods the moulds and casts of bivalves and other invertebrate creatures can be clearly made out.  Many tourists visit the Guildhall to admire the galleries and the treasures they contain, but to a keen fossil hunter, there are 150 million year old treasures to be found in the stones that make up the building itself.

Evidence of Jurassic Invertebrates at the Guildhall

Looking for fossils of bivalves at the Guildhall

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

Cross the river Thames using Waterloo Bridge and take a little time to examine the coping stones that make up the supports to the pedestrian railings.  This bridge may be used by thousands of commuters and tourists each day, but how many of them stop to look carefully at the building stones on the side of the walkways.  These stones are also limestone, but they are not Portland stone.  However, they do contain fossil evidence of a catastrophe that devastated a marine environment during the age of the dinosaurs.  The limestone material represents Upper Jurassic strata and a close examination will reveal that it is packed with hundreds of fossils of marine invertebrates, all smashed up and jumbled together.  This sediment has preserved the devastation caused by a major storm event such as a tsunami that destroyed a marine ecosystem.  This habitat was probably close to shore and the shallow seascape took the fall force of huge natural disaster such as a hurricane or a tsunami.  The remains of bivales such as oysters can be clearly seen, the shells mostly a bleached white against the grey limestone matrix.  The remains of the calcite skeletons secreted by coralline algae can be made out as well, evidence of the destruction of a marine ecosystem preserved in the walls of a famous London landmark.

Fossils Preserved in the Limestone Used to Build Waterloo Bridge

Jurassic Fossils on Waterloo Bridge

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

It is not just London where such fossils can be found, many forms of sedimentary rock are used as building materials and with a keen eye fossils that record evidence of ancient life can be found at the very heart of big cities and towns.

You don’t need to go to a quarry or the seaside to go fossil hunting, next time you are in a big city take a close look at the stone building materials that are around you, or that you are walking on.  After all, most of these hidden treasures go unnoticed by the thousands of people who walk by them every day.

More Fossils found on Waterloo Bridge

Fossil Hunting in the Middle of London

 Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

Neolithic Dentists

Stone Age Toothache Eased by Beeswax Filling

A trip to the dentist may be regarded by many as one of the perils of modern-day living but surprisingly there is a considerable amount of fossil evidence to suggest that Stone Age people may have practised some rudimentary dentistry.  Scientists using a partial human jawbone that had been found in Slovenia more than one hundred years ago, got a surprise when they used this specimen to test a new X-ray imaging machine.  The researchers discovered something remarkable in a canine tooth, the tooth had a long, vertical crack down it and an area of the crown, the enamel, had been worn away to reveal a large cavity.  A broken and worn tooth of an ancient human is not a surprise, after all, teeth were worn down by the harsh and abrasive diet endured by our ancestors.  However, this particular tooth, showed signs that somebody had attempted to give the tooth a filling.  A plug of material had been carefully applied to the hole, covering the sensitive dentine and filling the cavity.  The material, once analysed using infrared spectroscopy was identified as beeswax and remarkably the filling was over six and a half thousand years old.  This suggests that either the owner of the tooth or another member of the tribe has plugged the worn tooth either whilst the owner was still alive or shortly after the person died.  If the tooth was repaired when the person was alive, then this is one of the oldest examples of Stone Age dentistry found to date.

A Picture Showing Various Images of the Tooth and the Human Jawbone

Evidence of Neolithic Dentistry

Picture Credit: Journal PLoS One

This example of Neolithic dentistry is not an isolated case, American researchers reported back in 2001 of evidence of flint drills being used to make holes in teeth from people that lived between 9,000 and 7,500 years ago in Pakistan.  However, none of these drilled teeth showed any signs of having received a filling – but why beeswax?

Beeswax and a substance called Propolis are used extensively in herbal medicines today.  Propolis is a natural, brown, sticky substance that is collected by honey bees from trees and other plants.  It contains a mixture of plant resin, waxes and essential oils.  Just like that other product of the honey bee – honey, these substances have anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory properties.  Beeswax crammed into a tooth cavity might have eased any toothache to some degree and helped to prevent infections.  Beeswax also has the added advantage of having a low melting point so it can be easily worked.  At body temperature the waxy esters and other long chain molecules solidify and make a strong, stable bond, effectively providing a strong cap for the hole in the tooth.

It seems our ancient ancestors may have known a thing or too about dental hygiene.  The fossil human jawbone was found in a cave system, near the town of Lonche in what is now Slovenia today.  It is believed the jawbone is from an adult male who was aged between 24 and 30 years old when he died.

The scientists who made this remarkable discovery, Claudio Tuniz and his colleague Federico Bernardini at the International Centre for Theoretical Physics based in Trieste, cannot be certain that the tooth filling was not applied post mortem. There is some evidence in the fossil record of human teeth have been treated as part of burial ceremonies as corpses are prepared for the afterlife.  If this is an example of early dentistry, helping a patient overcome the pain from a toothache then this practice did not die out at the end of the Stone Age.  Beeswax and other materials were used in ancient Egypt to help with a variety of ailments, these substances also had important roles to play in the Egyptian mummification process – helping to preserve soft tissue.

What is intriguing is that other teeth in the ancient human jaw bone used to test the X-ray machine had cavities as well, but only the canine tooth was filled.  Perhaps this tooth was particularly troublesome, or perhaps if the prices paid today for dental work reflect the price paid in the Neolithic for such treatment our Stone Age patient could not afford any more  dental work.  Of course this is pure speculation, one other point to note is that was the treatment self administered or was there a special person in the tribe, perhaps a shaman or wise elder who was tasked with looking after the health and well-being of other tribe members?

Dinosaur Head with Dinosaur Models Play Sets

Dinosaur Play Sets Reviewed

Novel dinosaur play sets are quite difficult to source these days.  There are a number of dinosaur themed play sets available, but one that has proved particularly popular with young dinosaur fans is the dinosaur head which has a screw-lid in the base that once undone reveals a set of twelve prehistoric animal models inside.  There are two dinosaur head play sets available, one featuring a T. rex and the other the head of a plant-eating dinosaur a Triceratops.

Dinosaur Heads with Models

Dinosaur Play Sets

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

The plastic heads stand about twenty centimetres high and feature a dinosaur roaring, inside there are twelve different prehistoric animal models to discover.  The T. rex head and the Triceratops both feature the same assortment of prehistoric animals.  In the sets we examined, we found that each set of models included a Tyrannosaurus rex and a Triceratops dinosaur model.  The other ten models consisted of two long-necked, Sauropod dinosaurs, a Brachiosaurus and a Diplodocid dinosaur.  It is rare to find long-necked dinosaurs in a model set, manufacturers seem to shy away from making small models of these types of dinosaurs, but in this set the models are well-crafted and bound to please young dinosaur fans.  As well as the long-necked dinosaurs and the T. rex, Triceratops combination the models inside the heads that we looked at were an Ankylosaurus, Stegosaurus, Parasaurolophus, Pachycephalosaurus, Styracosaurus and a Velociraptor-like dinosaur, perhaps a fearsome Utahraptor.  The other two models in this colourful series were not dinosaurs.  In common with other prehistoric animal model sets, there was a model of a flying reptile, a Pterosaur (Pteranodon flying reptile).  This flying reptile model,showed the creature with its wings outstretched and it had an orange head crest painted on it.  Although the standing position of this Pterosaur model is not anatomically accurate (Pterosaurs could, most likely not stand fully upright ), the model is well made and would be good for creative, imaginative play.

The last of the twelve models is a bright orange model of a Pelycosaur, most probably a Dimetrodon.  As with the Pterosaur model it is quite common to see a “dinosaur model set” featuring a mammal-like reptile.  All the models contained within the heads are colourful and skilfully crafted.  This dinosaur head play set would make an ideal gift for a young dinosaur fan from about three years and upwards.  The screw lid that makes up the base of the head even has a little carry handle built in to it, so this play set can be carried around.

Dinosaur Models (Twelve Well-crafted Dinosaur Models)

Dinosaur Models Play Set

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

A cleverly designed dinosaur play set, the actual heads themselves may not reflect quite the appearance of the dinosaur they represent.  For example, Triceratops did not have teeth quite as depicted on this model, but the figures inside are great for creative, dinosaur themed play.

To view the Everything Dinosaur range of dinosaur models and toys: Toy Dinosaurs

Homo heidelbergensis – A Skilled Craftsman and Hunter

Ancient Spears show Early Humans were Highly Skilled

Researchers from the University of Tubingen in the southern German state of Baden-Württemberg have reported on their analysis of the animal remains, flora and evidence of skilled human craftsmen and hunters.  This study indicates that hominids that once roamed southern Germany 400,000 years ago were capable of making strong, sturdy spears tipped with finely knapped flints.  The scientists have concluded that these spears are evidence of skilled hunters, who would have used careful planning and foresight to ensure a successful hunt.  These weapons are believed to be some of the oldest ever discovered and they have been ascribed to a hominid known as Homo heidelbergensis.  The use of such sophisticated technology as early as the Middle Pleistocene epoch suggests many accepted theories on primitive human behaviour and capabilities may have to be re-written.

A Close up of One of the Flint Spearheads

Crafted with considerable skill

Picture Credit: Dr. Nicholas Conrad/University of Tubingen

In 1907, a workman found a human jawbone in a sand quarry near the small village of Mauer, to the south-east of the German town of Heidelberg.  Otto Shoetensack, a renowned German palaeontologist, had been convinced that early human remains would be found in the ancient layers of sand at this site and the jawbone was evidence of a primitive Neanderthal-like hominid having once lived in that area.  Subsequent skull discoveries, this time in Africa led to this jawbone and the skulls being ascribed to a new species of early human – H. heidelbergensis.  Although known from only a few fragmentary fossil bones, including a massive shin bone found in West Sussex, this hominid is believed to have been the direct ancestor of both the Neanderthals and modern humans.  H. heidelbergensis may have evolved from Homo ergaster and it was the first hominid to colonise the colder parts of northern Europe.   The flint spearheads and beautifully well-preserved wooden spear shafts have been found at an opencast coalmine just one hundred kilometres away from the site of the original H. heidelbergensis jawbone discovery.

A total of eight spears were found at the coalmine location.  A team of researchers from the University of Tubingen’s Institute of Prehistory led by Dr. Jordi Serangeli and Dr. Nicholas Conrad are continuing to study the site and the remarkable information it is providing about life in the Pleistocene epoch.  The human artefacts have been found amongst the remains of butchered horses, water buffalo and aurochs (ancient cattle).  It seems that these early hunters were capable of tackling and bringing down large prey.  The site has also provided the scientists with information about the flora in Germany at the time, leaves of alder and the pine cones of fir trees have been preserved, along with pollen from many types of plants.  The weapons have been ascribed to Homo heidelbergensis, although no human remains have been found at this site, amongst the bones of elephants, rhinos and even lions.

One of the Wooden Spear Shafts Found at the Site

Ascribed to H. heidelbergensis

Picture Credit: Dr. Nicholas Conrad/University of Tubingen

The strata that contains the preserved Pleistocene evidence had been under the water table and this watery environment may have helped preserve the remains, permitting the scientists to learn so much about life in northern Europe for some of our ancient ancestors.   The wooden spears do not seem designed for throwing. They were most likely used as thrusting weapons at close quarters.  The flint spearheads show considerable skill in their construction and they would have been carefully joined onto the thick, wooden spear shaft using animal sinews.  Based on the fossil evidence and these spears, it seems clear that H. heidelbergensis was physically bigger and stronger than modern people.  Palaeoanthropologists have estimated that both males and females may have stood over six feet tall and that the males would have weighed around eighty kilogrammes with the females slightly lighter.  These eight spears, so carefully crafted by our ancestors may prove to be the oldest weapons ever found in Europe.

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