Photos: Mummies and Figurines Discovered in Ancient Cemetery at Luxor


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Photos: Mummies and Figurines Discovered in Ancient Cemetery at Luxor

Artifacts from tomb

Credit: Photo courtesy Egypt’s Ministry of Antiquities

Shaft

Credit: Photo courtesy Egypt’s Ministry of Antiquities

2,300-Year-Old Cemetery with Mummy Priests Found in Egypt


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2,300-Year-Old Cemetery with Mummy Priests Found in Egypt

2,300-Year-Old Cemetery with Mummy Priests Found in Egypt

At least 40 limestone sarcophagi that held mummified burials were discovered in the cemetery. One of them is pictured here.

Credit: Egyptian Antiquities Ministry

Archaeologists have discovered a 2,300-year-old underground cemetery that holds burials of the mummified remains of priests who worshipped the god Thoth. One priest was found wearing an amulet that said “Happy New Year” in Egyptian hieroglyphics.

In ancient Egypt, priests presided over religious ceremonies and rituals dedicated to the god or goddess they worshipped.

Discovered at the ancient Egyptian site of Tuna el-Gebel, to the west of the Nile River, the cemetery contains numerous burial shafts, and archaeologists expect the excavations will take about five years to complete, said Egyptian antiquities minister Khaled El-Enany during a press conference on Feb. 24.

“We found at least 40 sarcophagi,” in addition to large amounts of pottery, jewelry, ‘lucky charms’ [artifacts meant to bring good luck] and over 1,000 shabti figurines, El-Enany said. Shabti figurines are often found in ancient Egyptian burials and were meant to do the work of the deceased in the afterlife, Egyptologists generally believe.

More than 1,000 shabti figurines, many of them made out of faience, were discovered in the cemetery. Shabtis are often found in ancient Egyptian burials to do the work of the deceased in the afterlife.

More than 1,000 shabti figurines, many of them made out of faience, were discovered in the cemetery. Shabtis are often found in ancient Egyptian burials to do the work of the deceased in the afterlife.

Credit: Egyptian Antiquities Ministry

Though archaeologists don’t know the identities of all the deceased, they know at least some of the burials belong to priests who worshipped Thoth, the god who ancient Egyptians believed was the inventor of writing.

One mummy, thought to be a high priest of Thoth, was found with an inscription saying that his name is “Djehuty-Irdy-Es,” the antiquities ministry said in a statement. His mummy was decorated with a bronze collar in the shape of the Egyptian sky goddess Nut. Numerous blue and red beads also decorated his mummy; inside the coffin, archaeologists also found four amulets, one of which was engraved with Egyptianhieroglyphics that translate to “Happy New Year.”

This canopic jars held the inner organs of one of the mummies discovered in the cemetery.

This canopic jars held the inner organs of one of the mummies discovered in the cemetery.

Credit: Egyptian Antiquities Ministry

The date of the ancient Egyptian New Year varied, but around 2,300 years ago, it often took place in July, many scholars believe.

Archaeologists from Cairo University have been excavating the many cemeteries at Tuna el-Gebel for about 80 years. In 2017, they discovered another cemetery at the site that contained a series of underground catacombs. Both the 2017 and 2018 excavations were led by Mostafa Waziri, the Secretary General of the Supreme Council of Antiquities.

Originally published on Live Science.

What Would Happen if a Massive Solar Storm Hit the Earth?


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What Would Happen if a Massive Solar Storm Hit the Earth?

We all know that major storms can wreak havoc, flooding cities and decimating infrastructure. But there’s an even bigger worry than wind and rain: space weather. If a massive solar storm hit us, our technology would be wiped out. The entire planet could go dark.

“We’re much more reliant on technology these days that is vulnerable to space weather than we were in the past,” Thomas Berger, director of theSpace Weather Prediction Center at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration told Gizmodo. “If we were hit by an extreme event today, it’d be very difficult to respond.”

“Solar storm” is a generic term used to describe a bunch of stuff the Sun hurls our way, including x-rays, charged particles, and magnetized plasma. A massive solar storm hasn’t hit the Earth since the mid-19th century, but space weather scientists are very worried about the possibility of another.

Solar Flares

A solar storm usually starts with a solar flare — a giant explosion on the surface of the sun that sends energy and particles streaming off into space. Small, C-class flares occur all the time and are too weak to affect the Earth, while mid-sized M-class flares can produce minor radio disruptions. X-class flares, meanwhile, are the largest explosions in the solar system, releasing up to a billion hydrogen bombs worth of energy. These eruptions occur very rarely, but when they do, they’re an epic sight.

One of the most powerful flares measured with modern instruments took place during a solar maximum in 2003. It was so large it maxed out our satellite sensors, which registered an X-28 (28 types larger than an X-1 flare, which itself is 10 times greater than an M1 flare). Here’s what that event looked like:

The Solar and Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO) spacecraft captured this epic solar flare in 2003. Image credit: ESA / NASA – SOHO

Despite observing flares for over a century, scientists still aren’t totally sure what causes the Sun to erupt. We do know that flares have a lot to do with disruptions in the Sun’s powerful magnetic field, which oscillates over the course of an 11-ish year solar cycle.

“Solar storms originate in magnetic features that erupt from the surface of the sun,” explained space weather scientist Joe Gurman, speaking to Gizmodo from NASA’s Goddard Spaceflight Center. “We call these active regions, or sunspots. When they’re big and ugly, that’s an indication that the magnetic field is changing rapidly. And when the magnetic field changes rapidly, that appears to be the cause — or related to the cause — of solar activity.”

A mid- to large-sized solar flare would send waves of high energy radiation — x rays and ultraviolet light — zipping toward the Earth. These types of radiation are powerful enough to rip electrons off of atoms. That’s exactly what they start doing when they hit the upper portion of our atmosphere, known as the ionosphere. Basically, the sky gets zapped with a giant electromagnetic pulse. But according to Berger, even the biggest flares don’t impact humans very much.

“It’s a huge EM pulse that roils up the ionosphere, causing it to expand out,” Berger said. “But the solar flare really doesn’t damage technology.”

The one exception is radio. Radio signals between the Earth and orbiting satellites can be blocked when the atmosphere becomes too charged.

“Radio communications are sometimes impacted,” Berger noted. “Over the horizon radio becomes difficult. When airplanes are flying over the poles, the only way they communicate with control centers is high frequency radio waves bouncing over the continents. But it’s just a temporary difficulty lasting ten minutes to hours at the most.”

An X-class flare captured by NASA on March 6th, 2012. Image Credit: NASA Goddard Spaceflight Center / Flickr

We don’t have a great way of forecasting solar flares, and they hit the Earth too quickly for NOAA to provide airline companies with advance notice (it takes about eight minutes for sunlight to reach us).

“The only thing we can do is issue an alert when we see one,” Berger said. “Airlines are very interested in flare effects on high frequency communications, and if there’s a really large event, they’ll consider grounding flights.”

If you’re not an airline operator, you pretty much get to sit this one out. But don’t forget to check out the amazing images over at NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory every now and then.

Charged Particles

Minutes to hours after a solar flare lights up the sky, a stream of charged particles — electrons and protons — arrive at the Earth. They bombard the magnetosphere, a protective envelope around Earth created by our magnetic field. “We see the radiation level go up sometimes, which can indicate that particles are impinging on Earth’s orbit,” said Berger.

Charged particles falling into Earth’s atmosphere contribute to the northern lights. Image Credit: Adam Woodworth

Occasionally, a large pulse of charged particles will hit orbiting satellites and damage their electronics. Particle radiation is also a big health risk for humans in space.

“We do have to worry about energetic particles on the ISS,” Gurman said. “If we ever get to the point of being a spacefaring race, they’re going to become a much bigger concern.”

But by and large, the effects of solar particle radiation are buffered by the magnetosphere and atmosphere. It’s what’s coming next that you and me on the ground need to worry about.

Coronal Mass Ejections

When the Sun flares up, it sometimes shoots a giant cloud of magnetized plasma off into space. This is called a coronal mass ejection (CME). CMEs are the slowest form of solar weather, taking anywhere from 12 hours to several days to reach the Earth. They’re also by far the most dangerous.

Fortunately, because CMEs are slow moving, our space weather forecasters have a little more time to anticipate them. They examine images of the Sun, pulled from the SOHO and STEREO satellites. When our observatories see something big, NOAA responds.

Berger outlined what happens next: “A watch is issued when we see something happen on the Sun headed toward the Earth. Typically if there’s a large CME, something major we think could impact the Earth, we put out a watch.”

A CME will shoot pretty much straight out from the Sun, and there’s always a good chance that the Earth won’t end up in its path. If a CME is coming straight at us, it’ll first hit NASA’s ACE satellite, located at the L1 Lagrange point roughly a million miles in front of the Earth. If that happens, we’ve got anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour before a cloud of plasma rains down from above, interacting with our planet’s magnetosphere and triggering a geomagnetic storm.

That’s when you start to see effects on the power grid.

Artist’s depiction of the solar wind colliding with Earth’s magnetosphere. Image Credit: NASA / Wikimedia

“This generates huge electrical currents in upper atmosphere of Earth,” Berger said. “Depending on how conductive the ground is, you can get large currents getting picked up by power stations and fed into the grid.” And that’s bad news, because “our grid isn’t designed for huge amounts of current coming out of the ground.”

Geomagnetic storm strength is measured in “disturbance storm time” or Dst, which essentially describes how hard a CME shakes up Earth’s magnetic field. Ordinary storms, which cause the northern lights to flare up but otherwise don’t impact us, register somewhere in the neighborhood of Dst = -50 nT (nanoTesla). The worst geomagnetic storm of the space age, which knocked out power across Quebec in March of 1989, registered a Dst = -600 nT.

But even that 1989 storm looks puny in comparison to the Carrington event, a geomagnetic storm that zapped the Earth 156 years ago. At the time, the damage wasn’t too bad. But a Carrington-sized storm today could spell disaster.

Monster Storms

The Carrington event of September, 1859 is named for Richard Carrington, the English astronomer who saw the sun flare up with his own eyes. In the days following Carrington’s observation, a series of powerful CMEs hit the Earth head-on, igniting the northern lights as far south as Cuba. Currents electrified telegraph lines, shocked technicians, set telegraph papers on fire, and caused widespread communications outages.

Modern estimates for the strength of this storm range from Dst = -800 nT to -1750 nT.

Things stand to get really dark up in here the next time a Carrington-sized storm hits. Image Credit: NASA Earth Observatory

Human society is far more reliant on electricity today than it was 156 years ago. Berger pointed out that today we have pipelines, electrical transmission grids, and a lot more ground-based electrical conduction technology. So, what would happen if a Carrington-sized event struck us now? Pretty much ever aspect of the modern world would take a hit, according to a report by the National Academies of Sciences.

The ground currents induced by large geomagnetic storms can melt the copper windings of transformers that lie at the heart of power distribution systems. If this happens, it can lead to massive power outages. And because our power grid has grown much more interconnected over time, the effects of such an outage today could be spread far and wide.

A map showing the at-risk transformer capacity by state for a 4800 nT/min geomagnetic field disturbance. Regions with high percentages of at-risk capacity could experience long-duration outages extending for several years. Image Credit: J. Keppenman, Metatech Corp

It’s hard to overstate just how much this would uproot our lives. The lights would of course go out, as would the internet, and any device that draws current from the wall. In places with electronically-controlled municipal water supplies — like most modern cities — toilets and sewage treatment systems would stop working. Heating and air conditioning would fail. Perishable food and medication would be lost. ATMs would be useless. Gas pumps would go offline. And so forth.

GPS technology would also be knocked out. Said Grunman, “The GPS system depends on the very precise timing of a course of signals between two points, like a spacecraft and your phone. If you dump a bunch of energetic particles into the atmosphere, that effects your GPS. Which is sobering when you consider the replacement of old aircraft landing technology with GPS.”

Some of these effects could last years, and they’d be felt globally. “The entire magnetic field of the Earth is changing, so the entire Earth feels it,” said Berger.

Image Credit: Shutterstock

It’s hard to fathom the social consequences of billions of power-hungry humans suddenly being pulled off the grid, but I think we can all agree it wouldn’t be pretty. What we do know for sure is that the economic toll would be enormous. The National Academies report estimates that total cost of a Carrington-sized event today could exceed $2 trillion dollars — 20 times greater than the cost of Hurricane Katrina.

It’s important to keep in mind that we aren’t talking about some incredibly far-fetched, Armageddon-style apocalypse situation here. In fact, in July of 2012, a massive CME ripped through Earth’s orbit and narrowly missed us. That event, which was picked up by NASA’s STEREO-A satellite, would have registered a Dst of -1200 nT — comparable to the Carrington event.

“If it had hit, we would still be picking up the pieces,” space weather scientist Daniel Baker of the University of Colorado told NASA in 2014. “How many other [storms] of this scale have just happened to miss Earth and our space detection systems? This is a pressing question that needs answers.”

Are We Dead in the Water?

Hopefully we can enact some smart mitigation policies before the techno-pocalypse befalls us. Image Credit: Shutterstock

Thanks to a growing army of space weather observatories, we’re much better able to predict CMEs than we were 20 years ago. Still, most space weather scientists agree that if a massive solar storm struck today, we’d be pretty screwed. But we’re trying to change that.

The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy has assembled a task force to explore ways of responding to extreme events. Berger said that they have a national space weather strategy due out in October. The strategy will outlines what the US needs to do to be “better prepared.”

Berger couldn’t comment on the specifics of the policy strategy, so we’ll have to check in again this fall. He did hint that it would be heavy on the recommendations for power suppliers. (Currently, power companies respond to large solar storm warnings by re-routing power distribution around transformers.)

In the meanwhile, what can a space weather-conscious Earthling do? Most of the usual disaster preparedness advice applies. Build an emergency supply kit.Have a plan for getting in touch with loved ones should the phones fail. Keep your car tank at least half full of gasoline. Keep extra batteries on hand, or purchase a solar or hand-crank charger. Back up your data. Make sure you’ve got plenty of spare crowbars — wait, no, that’s the zombie apocalypse.

And of course, you can keep up with the latest solar storm warnings over atNOAA’s Space Weather Prediction Center.

Sources: NOAA Space Weather Prediction Center, NASA Solar Dynamics Observatory, “Solar Flares: What does it take to be X-Class?”, “Observations of an extreme storm in interplanetary space caused by successive coronal mass ejections”, “A massive solar eruptive event in July 2012: Defining extreme space weather scenarios”, “Severe space weather events: Understanding the societal and economic impacts”


Contact the author at maddie.stone@gizmodo.com or follow her on Twitter.

Top image: NASA Goddard Spaceflight Center /Flickr

Animals up-close


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Animals up-close

Photographers allow us to get up-close and personal with animals all around the world.
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A rhino baby, not named yet, walks outside for the first time with her mother Naima at Blijdorp Zoo in Rotterdam, The Netherlands, Jan. 4. The rhinoceros baby was born on Dec. 28. (Remko de Waalde Waal/EPA/Shutterstock)
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Cub panda Yuan Meng plays with its mother Huan Huan inside its new enclosure at The Beauval Zoo in Saint-Aignan-sur-Cher, central France on Jan 12.. The female panda gave birth to twins on Aug. 4, 2017, but one died soon afterwards. Nine-year-old Huan Huan and her male partner Yuan Zi arrived at Beauval zoo in January 2012 on a 10-year loan from China after intense, high-level negotiations between Paris and Beijing. Huan Huan (meaning “happy”) and Yuan Zi (”chubby”) are the only giant pandas living in France. Breeding pandas is notoriously difficult and this is the first time a cub has been born in France. (GUILLAUME SOUVANT/AFP/Getty Images)
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A sparrowhawk (Accipiter nisus) hunts at a bird feeder near Pomaz, 23 kms north of Budapest, Hungary, Jan. 2. (ATTILA KOVACS/EPA/Shutterstock)
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An Asiatic lion (Panthera leo persica) at the zoo in Heidelberg, Germany, Jan. 9. (RONALD WITTEK/EPA/Shutterstock)
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A submerged Hippo is seen at the Joburg Zoo in Johannesburg, South Africa, Jan.11. The Joburg Zoo is an 55-hectare (140-acre) zoo established in 1904 and houses about 2000 animals of 320 species. (KIM LUDBROO/EPA/Shutterstock)
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Khansa, an eight-month-old critically endangered Bornean orangutan shows off it’s two front-teeth, at the Singapore Zoo on Jan. 11 in Singapore. The Singapore Zoo is active with its breeding programs as part of its wildlife preservation efforts. (Wong Maye-E/Associated Press)
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Pama, a female elephant, eats at the Wilhelma Zoo in Stuttgart, southern Germany. (SEBASTIAN GOLLNOW/AFP/Getty Images)
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Lion cubs are presented in the zoo in Gdansk, Poland, Jan. 4. Three males and one female were born at the end of the Dec. 2017. Currently, the lion family in Gdansk’s zoo have five males and five females. Lion cubs in zoo in Gdansk, Poland. (Adam Warzawa/EPA/Shutterstock)
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The eyes of a Siberian Husky dog in Sokolniki Park in Moscow on Jan. 13. (MLADEN ANTONOV/AFP/Getty Images)
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A tolypeutes rolls itself up in the hands of a keeper at a zoo in Muenster, western Germany on Jan. 5. Tolypeutes are the only armadillos which can roll themselves up in case of danger. (BERND THISSEN/AFP/Getty Images)
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Templeton the pig roams at Cozy Critters Farm near Sour Lake, Texas. Rural animals continue to face issues of parasites, bacteria and trauma from Hurricane Harvey. (Guiseppe Barranco/The Beaumont Enterprise via AP)
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A great tit bird flaps its wings in the village of Troitskoye, outside Moscow, on Jan. 14. (YURI KADOBNOV/AFP/Getty Images)
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A red fox (Vulpes vulpes) in its enclosure at a wildlife park in Frankfurt, Germany. (PATRICK PLEUL/AFP/Getty Images)
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An Asian small-clawed otter, the smallest otter species in the world, feeds on fish in its enclosure at the Singapore Zoo on Jan. 11 in Singapore. (Wong Maye-E/Associated Press)
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A Rosy Pelican allopreens at Alipoor zoo enclosure in Calcutta, India. (PIYAL ADHIKAR/EPA/Shutterstock)
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Villagers (unseen) bring a buffalo for a fight on the occasion of the Magh Bihu festival in Morigaon district of Assam state, India, Jan. 15. Although the Supreme Court has banned animal fights in some parts of the country, yet the restriction has seemingly no takers in Assam. People of Assam have organized the popular buffalo fights on the occasion of the Annual Magh Bhihu festival throughout the state. According to media reports, many of the organizers of such buffalo fights insisted that they cannot forego the age-old traditions of the Bihu Festival and they always ensure no animals are injured. (EPA/Shutterstock)
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Dog “Neske” has snow in its face on Nov. 26, near Hofsgrund on the Schauinsland mountain in the Black Forest, southwestern Germany. (PATRICK SEEGER/AFP/Getty Images)
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A wild animal, locally known as Binturung (Arctictis binturong) in a cage at Aceh Natural Resources Conservation Agency office at Banda Aceh, Indonesia, Jan. 12. (HOLIT SIMANJU/EPA/Shutterstock)
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An injured female Long-eared owl, who likely suffered a concussion after striking a window and was rescued from the 14th story of a midtown Manhattan building Friday, is shown after being treated at the Wild Bird Fund, a New York city-based wildlife rehabilitation center. The owl, who spent the weekend recovering from her collision, was treated with anti-inflammatory medication and antibiotic eye drops by the rehabilitation center and recovered. She was released in New York’s Central Park on New Years’ Day under a supermoon. (Andrew Garn/Associated Press)
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Alice Shull and her dog Oliver show their support for Framingham mayoral candidate. (Suzanne Kreiter/Globe Staff)
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An Egyptian goose (Alopochen aegyptiaca) spreads her wings at the zoo in Heidelberg, Germany, Jan. 9. (WITTEK/EPA/Shutterstock)
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False gharial “De Gaulle” swims in its basin during the annual inventory of the zoo in Dresden, eastern Germany, on January 8, 2018. / AFP PHOTO / dpa / Sebastian Kahnert / Germany OUTSEBASTIAN KAHNERT/AFP/Getty Images (SEBASTIAN KAHNERT/AFP/Getty Images)
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Shown is Motuba, a male Western lowland gorilla, at the Philadelphia Zoo in Philadelphia, Jan. 11. (Matt Rourke/Associated Press)
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An osprey poses in front of the camera at the Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge in Virginia. Motion-detecting wildlife cameras are yielding serious science as well as amusing photos. From ocelots in the desert to snow-loving lynx high in the Northern Rockies, remote cameras are exposing elusive creatures like never before. (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service via AP)
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Female Gelada baboons, also known as bleeding-heart baboons, cuddle with their youngs in order to keep warm at the Wilhelma Zoo in Stuttgart, Germany. (Sebastian Gollnow/dpa via AP)
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With her breath frosting up in the sub freezing temperatures, one of the Memphis Zoo’s African lions chills out morning, Jan. 2, in Memphis, Tenn. (Jim Weber/The Commercial Appeal via AP)
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A man feeds a seagull flying behind a ferry on The Bosphorus as the sun shines in Istanbul on Jan. 4. (BULENT KILIC/AFP/Getty Images)
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A freshwater stingray (Potamotrygonidae) enjoys a fish as it is being measured during the annual inventory at the Sea Life aquarium in Hanover, northern Germany, on Jan.11. (Holger Hollemann/AFP/Getty Images)
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A white Indian goose splashes in the waters of a pond of a public garden during a sunny but a cold day in New Delhi, India, Jan. 10. (HARISH TYAGI/EPA/Shutterstock)
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Two Adelie penguins swim in the Guadalajara Zoo, in Guadalajara, Mexico, Jan. 13. The Guadalajara Zoo celebrated the arrival of three Adelie penguin pups, which will help the conservation of this threatened species. (ULISES RUIZ BASURTO/EPA/Shutterstock)
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Ice bear Tonja swims in the water tank of her enclosure at the zoo in Berlin, Germany, Sunday, Jan. 14, 2018. (Maurizio Gambarini/dpa via AP) (Maurizio Gambarini/dpa via AP)
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A greater mouse-eared bat (Myotis myotis) housed in the basement vault of a brewery in Frankfurt/Oder in eastern Germany. (PATRICK PLEUL/AFP/Getty Images)

Saturn’s Fascinating Moon Titan Has Yet Another Thing in Common With Earth


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Saturn’s Fascinating Moon Titan Has Yet Another Thing in Common With Earth

Visualization of Titan’s largest sea, Kraken Mare, which stretches 680 miles. (Image: NASA/JPL-Caltech/ASI/USGS)

Titan—Saturn’s largest moon—is remarkable in that it features a dense atmosphere and stable liquid at the surface. The only other place in the solar system with these particular characteristics is, you guessed it, Earth. Thanks to a pair of new studies, we can add a third trait to this list of shared characteristics: a global sea level.

Two new studies published in Geophysical Research Letters are offering fresh insights into one of the solar system’s most intriguing objects, the Saturnian moon Titan. The first study provides the most detailed topographical map of Titan to date, while the second study piggybacks off this research, showing that Titan’s largest seas and lakes have a common equipotential surface, meaning they form a common sea level. Both studies were done by researchers from Cornell University in Ithaca, New York.

Using data from multiple sources, including the late, great Cassini probe, a research team led by Alex Hayes was able to piece together the new topographical map. It’s not perfect (it still has some gaps and “hazy” areas of uncertainty), but it’s the most detailed yet.

The new topographical map of Titan. (Image: NASA/JPL-Caltech/ASI/USGS)

The exercise, which took a full year, revealed some new features, including new mountains (none higher than 2,290 feet (700 meters)) and depressions in equatorial regions that appear to be either ancient, dried seas or cryovolcanic flows (that is, flows produced by ice volcanoes). The Cornell scientists also learned that Titan is more oblate—or flatter—than we thought, which means it has a crust that’s highly variable.

In the second study, also led by Hayes, the researchers used the new topographical information to show that an average sea level exists across Titan’s seas and lakes. Unlike Earth’s oceans of liquid water, however, Titan features water bodies of oily hydrocarbons (e.g. liquid methane and ethane). Titan’s largest seas and lakes were shown to rest at a consistent elevation across the planet, similar to how the Atlantic and Pacific oceans sit at a common sea level on Earth.

Smaller lakes appeared at heights several hundred feet higher than Titan’s sea, again approximating something we see on our planet. As an extreme example, Lake Titicaca sits 12,507 feet high in the Andes Mountains.

“We’re measuring the elevation of a liquid surface on another body [930 million miles] away from the sun to an accuracy of roughly 40 centimeters [15.75 inches]. Because we have such amazing accuracy we were able to see that between these two seas the elevation varied smoothly about 11 meters [36 feet], relative to the center of mass of Titan, consistent with the expected change in the gravitational potential,” said Hayes in a statement.

By referring to Titan’s gravitational potential, Hayes is talking about differences in sea level elevation owing to the effects of gravity (gravity isn’t consistent across a large celestial body, due to differences in its mass and shape). The global differences in sea level variation, the new research shows, are within the expected bounds of the moon’s gravitational effects.

Ligeia Mare is the second-largest known body of liquid on Saturn’s moon Titan. (image: NASA/JPL-Caltech/ASI/Cornell)

This study shows that Titan’s large liquid bodies must be connected somehow. The most plausible explanation, say the researchers, is that they’re connected by underground aquifers, and not through channels or rivers on the surface.

“We don’t see any empty lakes that are below the local filled lakes because, if they did go below that level, they would be filled themselves. This suggests that there’s flow in the subsurface and that they are communicating with each other,” said Hayes. “It’s also telling us that there is liquid hydrocarbon stored on the subsurface of Titan.”

Titan’s hydrocarbons are likely flowing beneath the surface, similar to how water flows through underground porous rock or gravel on Earth—the result being that nearby lakes or seas share a common liquid level.

Much of this is pure speculation at this point; scientists will somehow have to prove that Titan’s subsurface features pools of interconnected reservoirs of hydrocarbons—a big ask, to say the least. But that simply means Titan is ripe for further investigation, and possibly a robotic mission.

[Geophysical Research Letters, Geophysical Research Letters]

Beneath Biblical Prophet’s Tomb, an Archaeological Surprise


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Beneath Biblical Prophet’s Tomb, an Archaeological Surprise

 Beneath Biblical Prophet's Tomb, an Archaeological Surprise
Seven inscriptions were found in looters’ tunnels dug beneath the destroyed tomb of Jonah (one of the tunnels is shown here).

Credit: Eleanor Robson

Deep inside looters’ tunnels dug beneath the Tomb of Jonah in the ancient Iraq city of Nineveh, archaeologists have uncovered 2,700-year-old inscriptions that describe the rule of an Assyrian king named Esarhaddon.

The seven inscriptions were discovered in four tunnels beneath the biblical prophet’s tomb, which is a shrine that’s sacred to both Christians and Muslims. The shrine was blown up by the Islamic State group (also called ISIS or Daesh) during its occupation of Nineveh from June 2014 until January 2017.

ISIS or ISIS-backed looters apparently dug the tunnels to look for archaeological treasures from the Assyrian kings in what is today Iraq, Ali Y. Al-Juboori, director of the Assyrian Studies Centre at the University of Mosul, wrote in a recent issue of the journal Iraq. [In Photos: Ancient City Discovered in Iraq]

One inscription, in translation, reads: “The palace of Esarhaddon, strong king, king of the world, king of Assyria, governor of Babylon, king of Sumer and Akkad, king of the kings of lower Egypt, upper Egypt and Kush [an ancient kingdom located south of Egypt in Nubia].”

This inscription was found during excavations at Nineveh on the back of a fallen "lamassu," a deity with a human's head and the body of a lion or bull. It reads (in translation): "The palace of Ashurbanipal, great king, mighty king, king of the world, king of Assyria, son of Esarhaddon, king of Assyria, descendant of Sennacherib, king of Assyria."

This inscription was found during excavations at Nineveh on the back of a fallen “lamassu,” a deity with a human’s head and the body of a lion or bull. It reads (in translation): “The palace of Ashurbanipal, great king, mighty king, king of the world, king of Assyria, son of Esarhaddon, king of Assyria, descendant of Sennacherib, king of Assyria.”

Credit: Stevan Beverly

Kush leaders at one point ruled Egypt, according to ancient inscriptions found at other archaeological sites. Those inscriptions also say that Esarhaddon defeated the Kush rulers and chose new rulers to govern Egypt.

Another inscription found under the Tomb of Jonah says that Esarhaddon “reconstructed the temple of the god Aššur [the chief god of the Assyrians],” rebuilt the ancient cities of Babylon and Esagil, and “renewed the statues of the great gods.”

The inscriptions also tell of Esarhaddon’s family history, saying that he is the son of Sennacherib [reign 704–681 B.C.] and a descendent of Sargon II (reign 721–705 B.C.), who was also “king of the world, king of Assyria.”

Al-Juboori also translated four other inscriptions found at Nineveh, near the Nergal Gate (Nergal was the Assyrian god of war), between 1987 and 1992 by an archaeological team from Iraq’s Inspectorate of Antiquities. Conflicts in the area made it difficult for the team to publish their discoveries at the time.

The inscriptions date to the reign of King Sennacherib, and they all say this king “had the inner wall and outer wall of Nineveh built anew and raised as high as mountains.”

Archaeologists found several inscriptions near the Tomb of Jonah during the 1987-1992 excavations. One of them was written on a prism-shaped clay object and discusses Esarhaddon’s many military conquests, including Cilicia (located on the southern coast of what is now Turkey). The transcribed inscription calls Esarhaddon “the one who treads on the necks of the people of Cilicia.”

Esarhaddon claims in the inscription that “I surrounded, conquered, plundered, demolished, destroyed and burned with fire twenty-one of their cities together with small cities in their environs. …” The inscription also discusses his conquest of Sidon (located in modern-day Lebanon), claiming that Esarhaddon’s army tore down the city’s walls and threw them into the Mediterranean Sea.

The remains of ancient inscriptions from other sites that ISIS tried to loot and destroy have also been found. After the ancient Assyrian city of Nimrud was recaptured in November 2017, the surviving inscriptions include one describing a monkey colony that once flourished at Nimrud.

Originally published on Live Science.

Ancient Statue of Nubian King Found in Nile River Temple


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Ancient Statue of Nubian King Found in Nile River Temple

Ancient Statue of Nubian King Found in Nile River Temple

Parts of a 2,600-year-old statue engraved with an Egyptian hieroglyphic inscription were discovered recently at the site of Dangeil in Sudan.

Credit: J. Anderson/© Berber-Abidiya Archaeological Project

Remains of a 2,600-year-old statue with an inscription written in Egyptian hieroglyphics has been discovered in a temple at Dangeil, an archaeological site along the Nile River in Sudan.

Found in an ancient temple dedicated to the Egyptian god Amun, the statue depicts Aspelta, who was the ruler of the Kush kingdom between 593 B.C. and 568 B.C. Some of Aspelta’s predecessors had ruled Egypt, located to the north of Kush. Though Aspelta didn’t control Egypt, the inscription says (in translation) that he was “King of Upper and Lower Egypt” and was “Beloved of Re’-Harakhty” (a form of the Egyptian sun god “Re”) and that Aspelta was “given all life, stability and dominion forever.”

“Being ‘Beloved of a god’ confers legitimacy on a ruler,” wrote archaeologists Julie Anderson, Rihab Khidir el-Rasheed and Mahmoud Suliman Bashir, who co-direct excavations at Dangeil, in an article published recently in the journal Sudan and Nubia. The “Kushite kings were closely tied to Re,” they noted. [See Photos of the Newfound Statue with Hieroglyphics]

While Kush lost control of Egypt during the reign of a king named Tanwetamani (reign circa 664–653 B.C.), his successors, including Aspelta, still called themselves “King of Upper and Lower Egypt,” Anderson, an assistant keeper at the British Museum, told Live Science. The title “may be viewed as general assertions of authority using the traditional titles, and not a claim to Egypt,” Anderson said.

In 2008, archaeologists found parts of the Aspelta statue, including the head, along with statues depicting two other Kushite kings — Taharqa (reign ca. 690–664 B.C.) and Senkamanisken (reign ca. 643-623 B.C.).

The statue parts were found in a temple (main gate shown here) dedicated to the god Amun.
The statue parts were found in a temple (main gate shown here) dedicated to the god Amun.

Credit: M. Tohami/© Berber-Abidiya Archaeological Project

However, those Aspelta statue parts held little of thehieroglyphic inscription, preventing archaeologists from firmly identifying the statue as depicting Aspelta. It wasn’t until new pieces of the statue that had the hieroglyphic inscription were discovered during fieldwork in 2016 and 2017 that archaeologists could identify the statue and begin the process of putting it back together.

Archaeologists won’t know the statue’s exact dimensions until more reconstruction work is done, but, based on what they have so far, they estimate that the statue of Aspelta is “approximately half life-size.”

The Amun temple, where the statues of Aspelta, Taharqa and Senkamanisken were discovered, dates back at least 2,000 years. The statues were likely constructed during the lifetimes of their respective kings and were displayed long after those kings died, Anderson said.

“Statues might be displayed in temples, particularly the forecourts of temples, after the reigns of the kings, as they may have served as intermediaries between the people and the gods in popular religion,” Anderson told Live Science.

People used the Amun Temple until the late third to early fourth century, when the temple ceased to function. The kingdom of Kush also collapsed during the fourth century.

Between the late 11th and early 13th centuries, long after the Amun temple had fallen into ruin, people were digging graves in the ruined temple, archaeologists found.

Eight tombs excavated during the 2016 and 2017 field seasons contained the remains of several adult women and at least one juvenile. Inside those tombs, the researchers found a trove of jewelry, including necklaces, beaded belts, rings, bracelets and anklets. Altogether, the eight tombs held about 18,500 beads and more than 70 copper bracelets, she noted, adding that it dates back to a time when Christianity was widely practiced in the area.

The vast amount of jewelry “suggest this is an elite group” Anderson said, but archaeologists aren’t sure about who these people were.

The excavations at Dangeil are a mission of the National Corporation for Antiquities and Museums (NCAM), Sudan. The mission is sponsored by the Qatar-Sudan Archaeological Project. Mahmoud Suliman Bashir and Rihab Khidir el-Rasheed are both archaeologists with NCAM.

Originally published on Live Science.