Tuesday, September 23, 2003

Archaeology Update

Whew, I'm overdue for one of these. Of course I mentioned the huge rodent a few days ago. Let's see....

An initial exploration by robot has been made of the recently discovered wreck of the steamship Portland, lost with all 192 crewmen and passengers in a storm in 1898. The report is extremely weird, in my opinion; the discovers discount the theory that the ship was lost in a collision because "there wasn't enough damage," but after over 104 years rotting on the sea floor, I would question just how they believe they can tell this from a brief robotic exploration that was obviously made all the more difficult by fish nets draping the wreck. Secondly, the discovers' belief that a theory that the smokestacks were snapped off by a huge wave that tore them and the top two decks off the ship is proved by finding only the bases of the stacks in the wreck is just asinine - stacks and funnels are inevitably made of very light metal and if not swept off during sinking soon rust. Unfortunately these guys don't strike me as being the brightest bulbs in the world of marine archaeology, and it's apparent that a knowledgeable marine archaeologist needs to be put in charge here.

A small company in Washingon DC is helping African Americans trace their genetic history through DNA, enabling them to learn what part of Africa their ancestors may have come from. Interestingly, this development was predicted by science fiction writer John Brunner in his novel Stand on Zanzibar.

Australian paleontologists and volunteer helpers are finding the remains of coelurosaurs - small theropod dinosaurs - that previously had been known only from preserved tracks. Claws and teeth are among the remains found at the dig at a remote sheep station in Queensland.


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