Squid Pro Glow As if escaping a shark, this squid shows off…

Squid Pro Glow

As if escaping a shark, this squid shows off its camouflage – playing with how light dances off its skin to ‘disappear’ in the eyes of predators. Its secret lies in light-changing organs beneath the skin – here chromatophores (yellow dots) are full of coloured pigments which can absorb certain colours of light. Recently researchers discovered that the same organs are also capable of structural colour – changing or diffracting the path of light rays. Along with other skin organs, the balance of these different talents helps to explain how squid skin shimmers to hide itself, or send signals to other squid. Bioengineers are hoping to mimic these natural designs as a human ‘smart skin’ – possibly as a form of camouflage for military defence or as wearable medical sensors to allow doctors to quickly assess at risk patients.

Written by John Ankers

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Neolithic burials, Iron Age site found in Germany’s North Rhine-Westphalia

Archaeologists of the Landschaftsverband Westfalen-Lippe (LWL) have been excavating in Heek-Nienborg (Borken district in North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany) due to the expansion of an industrial estate. They not only uncovered an Iron Age settlement, but also unexpectedly discovered several graves from the Neolithic period.

Neolithic burials, Iron Age site found in Germany's North Rhine-Westphalia
The archaeologists surprisingly found several graves from the Neolithic period, which were provided
with numerous grave goods [Credit: LWL/I. Pepper]

Evidently, more than 5,000 years ago, people lived in the vicinity of today’s Heek. At least they buried their relatives here. Two dozen graves from the time of the so-called funnel beaker culture (3,400 — 2,850 BC) were found by LWL experts during their excavations.

«The discovery of such a cemetery is a stroke of luck,» says Dr. Bernhard Stapel of the LWL Archaeology for Westphalia. «It shows that many unknown testimonies of our ancestors are still hidden in the ground. The graves contained several grave goods, including richly decorated ceramic vessels of various shapes.»

The archaeologists were also able to recover axes and arrowheads made of flintstone. However, no bones have survived from the burials themselves.

«The soil here is very sandy,» explains LWL archaeologist and excavation director Dr. Ingo Pfeffer. «The sand extracts the calcium from the bones, causing them to dissolve more quickly. Therefore, we only have the grave goods and thus an insight into this long past culture. We can get a picture of life and death 5,000 years ago,» Pfeffer continues.

Neolithic burials, Iron Age site found in Germany's North Rhine-Westphalia
Since the ceramic vessels in the graves are very unstable, they are recovered
on site in a block [Credit: LWL/I. Pepper]

The ceramic vessels in particular, however, are very fragile. The damp sandy soil has also severely affected them. «That’s why we had to recover the vessels on site in a block,» explains conservationist Lina Pak. «In this process, the finds are carefully uncovered over a wide area and plastered with the surrounding soil. In this way it is possible to recover the objects as a whole and bring them to the restoration workshop.»

«There we can then remove the unstable ceramic from the block under controlled conditions and stabilize it,» says Pak. A total of ten such block excavations were carried out on the Heek-Nienborg excavation site. Pak has only just begun working on the blocks. «This will take some time. Such meticulous work takes a lot of time and patience.»

The archaeologists had originally only expected that they would investigate an Iron Age settlement. In 2016 and 2017, the LWL archaeologists had carried out several trial excavations on the area concerned. «We discovered traces of a settlement thousands of years old,» Pfeffer explains. Traces include the layouts of residential buildings or warehouses as well as waste pits. «We have now been able to investigate these first indications and document an entire settlement.»

On a total area of 2.5 hectares, the scientists uncovered traces of at least three Iron Age farmsteads. In addition, they found numerous pottery fragments, which allow an exact dating.

Neolithic burials, Iron Age site found in Germany's North Rhine-Westphalia
The first vessel has already been restored [Credit: LWL/L. Pak]

«As we had already suspected, the settlement dates from the Iron Age, i.e. from around 800 BC to the birth of Christ,» explains Stapel. «We were thus able to gain important insights into the settlement of the area around the Spelt river.»

The archaeologists’ excavations have now been completed. » We must now begin the follow-up work on the excavation,» says Pfeffer. «The vessels from the block excavations should also provide us with some exciting information about the Neolithic period here on site.

Source: Landschaftsverband Westfalen-Lippe (LWL) [trsl. TANN, July 22, 2019]

TANN

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Archaeology student finds exceptionally rare fragment from Roman bottle

Peter Moore discovered a fragment from a 1,800 year-old glass fish at the National Trust’s Chedworth Roman Villa in Gloucestershire.

Archaeology student finds exceptionally rare fragment from Roman bottle
The fragment above an artist’s impression of how the fish bottle would have looked
[Credit: National Trust/Rod Kirkpatrick/F Stop Press]

The shard of intricately decorated glass is so rare it took experts from around the world two years to identify it.

Wealth and influence

Peter discovered the fragment while part of a team carrying out a dig to understand more about the north wing of the villa. The glass fish may have been used to hold exotic perfume and was unearthed thousands of miles away from where it was made—in an area around the Black Sea in what is now Ukraine.

Nothing like it has ever been found in Britain and the discovery sheds new light on the wealth and influence of the ex-inhabitants of Chedworth.

Peter, from the Department of Archaeology, said: «When it appeared, the first wipe of the surface showed the color and it quickly became apparent it was something special.

«Excavating anything at Chedworth and knowing that you are the first person to gaze upon it for at least 1,800 years is a feeling that never tires, the memory of recovering this piece of glass certainly will not.»

Mystery

The glass piece was found in the summer of 2017 but had to be sent to a leading Roman glass expert, the late Professor Jennifer Price, who sought advice from other experts to solve the mystery of where it came from.

It was eventually found to match a fish shaped bottle that had been restored from many pieces, which is housed in the Corning Museum of Glass, New York.

By comparing the two samples, Prof Price concluded the piece came from near the tail of the glass fish.

The only other example of such a fish-shaped Roman bottle comes from a 2nd century burial in Crimea.

The Chedworth bottle has been made with an unusual technique, with the decoration laid on top of the blue-green surface to create scales in loops of white and yellow, and it is likely the fish’s open mouth formed the opening of the small vessel.

Nancy Grace, the National Trust archaeologist who led the work to investigate the find, said: «People have been enchanted by it, but it has also been a long and difficult journey.

«To have found that it is the only one of its type so far discovered in Roman Britain adds to our knowledge of the importance of Chedworth Roman Villa.

«Other objects found at the villa show it was home to somebody of wealth and status.

«That such an exotic thing was brought from so far away underlines that the occupants were in touch with the furthest regions of the Roman Empire and wanted to show off that influence. It is amazing that a small fragment has told us so much.»

Author: Shelley Hughes | Source: University of York [July 22, 2019]

TANN

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