‘Great enigma’: Amateur archaeologists unearth mysterious Roman object

‘Great enigma’: Amateur archaeologists unearth mysterious Roman object

CNN — Amateur archaeologists in England have unearthed one of the largest Roman dodecahedrons ever found, but mystery surrounds what it was actually used for.

The 12-sided object is one of just 33 known to exist in Roman Britain, and one of approximately 130 in the world. It is considered “one of archaeology’s great enigmas,” according to the Norton Disney History and Archaeology Group, an amateur group based in the English region of Lincolnshire where it was found in June.

Measuring about 3 inches across, the dodecahedron is hollow and covered with 12 holes of varying sizes.

The 1,700-year-old object will be displayed at the Lincoln Museum from May 4 until early September.

“It’s a real pleasure to have the Norton Disney dodecahedron joining us… just a stone’s throw from where it was found,” Andrea Martin, exhibitions and interpretations manager at the museum, said in a Lincolnshire County Council press release. “To have the opening of the display coincide with the Lincoln Festival of History is a real coup.”

The release describes the dodecahedron as “one of the largest examples” discovered.

However, experts still aren’t sure exactly what the Romans used the dodecahedron for.

“It is completely unique,” said Richard Parker, secretary of the Norton Disney History and Archaeology Group, adding that no similar objects have ever been found. He said that, unlike other dodecahedra, this one is undamaged.

“Ours is absolutely in a fabulous condition. It’s complete, undamaged, and it clearly was considered of great value by whoever made it and by those that used it,” Parker said. “So there must have been a very important reason for it to be deposited in the ground in the way that it was.”

Parker told CNN there are no descriptions of the dodecahedron in Roman literature, and they have not been depicted pictorially in mosaics. There are also several features that make it difficult to discern what its intended purpose was. All of the dodecahedra are of different sizes, meaning they were not used for measurement, he said. Because it is undamaged with no signs of wear, it is unlikely to have been a tool, Parker added.

Parker’s group does have one working theory, however.

“Most likely they were some form of religious or ritual object,” he said. “The Romans were a very superstitious lot, and generally required signs to allow them to make decisions in their daily lives.”

One indication supporting that idea is that the object was found near a small Roman mounted rider god figurine with “strong religious connections,” Parker said. The artifact was discovered in 1989 by metal detectorists, and the figurine is “often found on temple sites.”

The organization plans to return to the dig site later this year to conduct further excavations, which Parker hopes will help establish context on how the area was used. Parker said he is optimistic that the mystery will be solved because this dodecahedron was found in an archaeological excavation area, whereas “many of those that were found 200 or 300 years ago had no context to where they were found.”

“It is quite a complex story to tell that we’re just starting to tease out,” he added.

Staff at a Virginia wildlife center pretend to be red foxes as they care for an orphaned kit

Staff at a Virginia wildlife center pretend to be red foxes as they care for an orphaned kit

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — Employees of the Richmond Wildlife Center in Virginia are doing their best to act like mother foxes as they feed and care for an orphaned kit that found her way into their care.

In a video posted to the center’s Facebook page, Executive Director Melissa Stanley is shown wearing a red fox mask and rubber gloves while feeding the tiny kit from a syringe. The kit sits on top of a large stuffed animal fox that is supposed to look like her mother, Stanley said.

The same Facebook post explained why staff are wearing the mask to feed her, minimizing human sounds, creating visual barriers and taking other precautions. “It’s important to make sure that the orphans that are raised in captivity do not become imprinted upon or habituated to humans,” the post said.

All those measures make it more likely the kit could be reintroduced into the wild someday.

Stanley said in an interview that the kit was admitted to the center on Feb. 29 after a man walking his dog found her in an alley in Richmond. Thinking she was a kitten, he turned her over to the Richmond Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. She was less than 24 hours old and her umbilical stump was still attached.

Wildlife center staff initially tried to locate the kit’s mother and her den site so they could reunite them. They found the den site, but were told by the grounds superintendent that the foxes had been trapped and removed. Stanley said she suspects the fox kit either fell out of a trap or off the back of the trapper’s truck.

Staff at the wildlife center have been taking turns feeding the kit every two to four hours, all while wearing the fox mask. In addition to the large stuffed animal meant to mimic the kit’s mother, staff also put a smaller stuffed red fox in her enclosure. She cuddles up to the smaller stuffed animal at the end of the video.

The goal is to release animals back into the wild, not only to give them a greater chance of survival, but to recognize their own species and to reproduce to carry on their wildlife population,” Stanley said.

To that end, the center immediately began looking for other red fox kits of the same age and weight within the rehabilitation community. Staff located three other kits in a rehabilitation setting in northern Virginia. The fox kit will be transferred to the Animal Education and Rescue Organization, which plans to eventually release the kits back into the wild together.

11-Year-Old Guitarist Goes Viral with School Performance, Wows Rock World

11-Year-Old Guitarist Goes Viral with School Performance, Wows Rock World

Cole Parsons, an 11-year-old guitarist from West Virginia, has become a viral sensation after a video of him playing in front of his 5th grade classmates was posted on social media.

Donning an Alice in Chains Dirt T-shirt, Parsons calmly ran through an original instrumental composition, stunning those in the room and millions who viewed the video online, shared by his mother on Instagram & Tik Tok.

Beginning with a melodic arpeggiated intro — something that would be at home on an ’80s Metallica album — Parsons proceeds through an inspired and tonally impressive chord progression that bares some resemblance to the album on his shirt.

While Parsons has proven himself to be a shredder in other videos, playing songs by Van Halen, System of a Down, and Mötley Crüe, it’s interesting to note that this viral clip showcases a rather subdued, yet accomplished piece. A burgeoning songwriter in the making.

Parsons has since posted videos of him playing other songs, some alongside his dad. He’s also appeared on local TV news stations, where he performed the very composition that launched him to viral status. Members of Mötley Crüe, 3 Doors Down, and more have commented on his clips and heaped praise on the prodigious guitar player, whose cool demeanor belies his surprise at the sudden fame.

Parsons is well on his way, having already been gifted some Stratocaster-style guitars and a care package from Capri Sun.

Below you can watch the original viral clip, as well as the local news reports.

A sea otter pup found alone in Alaska has a new home at Chicago’s Shedd Aquarium

A sea otter pup found alone in Alaska has a new home at Chicago’s Shedd Aquarium

CHICAGO (AP) — An 8-week-old arrival from Alaska chirps loudly before devouring ice chips in the nursery at Chicago’s Shedd Aquarium.

He is Pup EL2306 — proper name to be determined — a northern sea otter who was found alone and malnourished in the remote town of Seldovia in October and taken to the Alaska SeaLife Center in Seward.

Shedd, one of only a few facilities in the United States with the resources to care for rescued otters, was contacted by the SeaLife Center and the aquarium’s otter team made the cross-country journey with the fluffy brown marine mammal who arrived in Chicago at the end of November.

“Caring for a little otter pup is just like caring for an infant,” including round-the-clock feeding, said Lana Gonzalez, a manager of penguins and otter at Shedd. “He also needs to get groomed. Sea otters have a very dense coat — there’s anywhere from a 700,000 to a million hairs per square inch, and that’s what they use to keep themselves warm. They don’t have a thick layer of blubber or fat like other marine mammals do, so taking care of that coat is very important.”

An otter mother would typically teach her offspring to groom. The aquarium team acts in her place to encourage the pup’s healthy development.

On Wednesday, otter supervisor Tracy Deakins entered the pup’s enclosure with clean white towels and encouraged him to leave the water. Deakins pointed to different spots on his fur and the pup responded by licking or rubbing it with his paws.

The pup will remain in Shedd’s Regenstein Sea Otter Nursery for a few months, building bonds with the staff, and he will eventually be introduced to the otter habitat and the five other otters at the aquarium.

Part of the growth process is moving pups from formula and small bits of clam to other solid foods. Gonzalez mentions the clam is “restaurant quality” and sustainably sourced.

Rescued pups are usually designated by the federal government as non-releasable and the Shedd experts said pups need their mothers for the first year of life.

“Once we bring him into our care he won’t be released back out into the natural environment, they’re just too used to people. But the good news is that he’ll be able to be an ambassador for his species here at the aquarium, so we’re really happy about that,” said Gonzalez.

Gigantic skull of prehistoric sea monster found on England’s ‘Jurassic Coast’

Gigantic skull of prehistoric sea monster found on England’s ‘Jurassic Coast’

CNN — The remarkably well-preserved skull of a gigantic pliosaur, a prehistoric sea monster, has been discovered on a beach in the county of Dorset in southern England, and it could reveal secrets about these awe-inspiring creatures.

Pliosaurs dominated the oceans at a time when dinosaurs roamed the land. The unearthed fossil is about 150 million years old, almost 3 million years younger than any other pliosaur find. Researchers are analyzing the specimen to determine whether it could even be a species new to science.

Originally spotted in spring 2022, the fossil, along with its complicated excavation and ongoing scientific investigation, are now detailed in the upcoming BBC documentary “Attenborough and the Jurassic Sea Monster,” presented by legendary naturalist Sir David Attenborough, that will air February 14 on PBS.

Such was the enormous size of the carnivorous marine reptile that the skull, excavated from a cliff along Dorset’s “Jurassic Coast,” is almost 6.6 feet long. In its fossilized form, the specimen weighs over half a metric ton. Pliosaurs species could grow to 50 feet in length, according to Encyclopaedia Britannica.

The fossil was buried deep in the cliff, about 36 feet above the ground and 49 feet down the cliff, local paleontologist Steve Etches, who helped uncover it, told CNN in a video call.

Extracting it proved a perilous task, one fraught with danger as a crew raced against the clock during a window of good weather before summer storms closed in and the cliff eroded, possibly taking the rare and significant fossil with it.

Etches first learned of the fossil’s existence when his friend Philip Jacobs called him after coming across the pliosaur’s snout on the beach. Right from the start, they were “quite excited, because its jaws closed together which indicates (the fossil) is complete,” Etches said.

After using drones to map the cliff and identify the rest of the pliosaur’s precise position, Etches and his team embarked on a three-week operation, chiseling into the cliff while suspended in midair.

“It’s a miracle we got it out,” he said, “because we had one last day to get this thing out, which we did at 9:30 p.m.”

Etches took on the task of painstakingly restoring the skull. There was a time he found “very disillusioning” as the mud, and bone, had cracked, but “over the following days and weeks, it was a case of …, like a jigsaw, putting it all back. It took a long time but every bit of bone we got back in.”

It’s a “freak of nature” that this fossil remains in such good condition, Etches added. “It died in the right environment, there was a lot of sedimentation … so when it died and went down to the seafloor, it got buried quite quickly.”

TSA’s 2024 canine calendar will melt your travelin’ heart

TSA’s 2024 canine calendar will melt your travelin’ heart

(CNN)- It’s not often that the words “TSA” and “adorable” come together in the same sentence. Long lines, discarded items, a sometimes-grumpy atmosphere – not much to love there.

But those two words are a natural pairing when it comes the Transportation Security Administration’s annual canine calendar. The agency announced its 2024 version on X (formerly Twitter) on Monday – and let’s just say these safety-minded, hard-working pooches are positively precious.

The calendar honors the more than 1,000 explosives-detection canines working across the United States. Adorning the cover is Dina, winner of the 2023 cutest canine contest.

This gal is a 3-year-old German Shorthaired Pointer who works at Harry Reid International Airport in Las Vegas. She was “one of several TSA canines who worked at Super Bowl LVII in Phoenix” back in February, according to a TSA news release.

But the doggie love doesn’t stop at the cover. Inside are a year’s worth of dogs starting with Gina-Gina, a regal looking Belgian Malinois that works at LaGuardia Airport in New York.

Actually, there’s more than year’s worth of dogs as the calendar offers up a few bonus canines at the end.

The calendar has plenty of dog factoids, too, such as this from May: “Canines possess a sense of smell more sensitive than even the most advanced man-made instrument. Their sniffers are powerful enough to detect substances at concentrations of one part per trillion—about the same as a single drop of liquid in 20 Olympic-size swimming pools.”

Webb telescope captures never-before-seen glimpse of the heart of the Milky Way

Webb telescope captures never-before-seen glimpse of the heart of the Milky Way

CNN — The James Webb Space Telescope has looked into the heart of the Milky Way galaxy, unveiling new features and mysteries within the chaotic region that could help astronomers unravel more details about the early universe.

The space observatory’s ability to view the universe in infrared light, which is invisible to the human eye, captured never-before-seen details in the image, released by NASA on Monday.

Astronomers used Webb to glimpse Sagittarius C, or Sgr C, an active region of star formation located about 300 light-years from the galaxy’s central supermassive black hole Sagittarius A. A light-year, equivalent to 5.88 trillion miles, is how far a beam of light travels in one year.

“The galactic center is the most extreme environment in our Milky Way galaxy, where current theories of star formation can be put to their most rigorous test,” said Jonathan Tan, research professor of astronomy and one of Crowe’s advisers at the University of Virginia, in a statement.

Additionally, the observatory’s Near-Infrared Camera spotted ionized hydrogen emissions surrounding the stellar region’s lower edge, depicted in cyan in the image.

Astronomers are still trying to determine what has created the vast amount of energized gas, which surpasses what would normally be released by young massive stars. The observation team is also intrigued by structures that look like needles within the ionized hydrogen that are arrayed without any order.

“The galactic center is a crowded, tumultuous place. There are turbulent, magnetized gas clouds that are forming stars, which then impact the surrounding gas with their outflowing winds, jets, and radiation,” said Rubén Fedriani, coinvestigator of the project and a postdoctoral research fellow at the Instituto Astrofísica de Andalucía in Spain, in a statement. “Webb has provided us with a ton of data on this extreme environment, and we are just starting to dig into it.”

WWII-era hangar burns in Tustin

WWII-era hangar burns in Tustin

(LA Times)- For more than 80 years, two massive domed hangars loomed over Tustin’s southern edge, a relic of Orange County’s military history hemmed in by an expanding suburban landscape that replaced orange groves and lima bean fields with shopping centers and tract homes.

Reaching 17 stories high, more than 1,000 feet long and nearly 300 feet wide, the cavernous wooden structures at the now-defunct Marine Corps Air Station in Tustin once housed military helicopters and blimps armed with machine guns and bombs, so dwarfed by the buildings they looked like toys sitting inside.

The hangars took about six months to build on an accelerated schedule in 1942 as the U.S. ramped up its war effort after entering World War II. But on Tuesday, as smoke poured into the sky from a massive fire, the north hangar took just hours to burn before firefighters decided to let it go.

The north hangar, near Valencia Avenue and Armstrong Road, caught fire just before 1 a.m. Flames chewed through the historic building throughout the day, collapsing section after section. What remains of the structure will eventually be demolished, fire officials said.

Thick smoke billowing from the hangar, which is owned by the U.S. Navy, was visible across the region. The sounds of the wood lattice that held up the roof collapsing echoed throughout the surrounding neighborhoods like tidal waves crashing along the shore.

The hangars were built mostly from Oregon Douglas fir, 2 million board-feet of wood that was treated with metallic salts as a fire retardant. But the size and construction of the structure made fighting the blaze a challenge.

Seventy OCFA firefighters on 11 engines and five fire trucks responded to the fire, which was so large and complex that officials deployed helicopters, including a Chinook used in wildfires, to drop water on the huge structure.

But because of the “dynamic nature of the fire, and the imminent danger of collapse,” firefighters planned to allow the mostly wooden hangar to fall on its own before crews move in to extinguish the fire, Fennessy said.

Officials estimated the structure could burn for several hours, if not days.

Officials are investigating what caused the blaze.

Ancient face carvings exposed as Amazon water level drops to record lows

Ancient face carvings exposed as Amazon water level drops to record lows

(CNN)- Human faces sculpted into stone up to 2,000 years ago have appeared on a rocky outcropping along the Amazon River since water levels dropped to record lows in the region’s worst drought in more than a century.

Some rock carvings had been sighted before but now there is a greater variety that will help researchers establish their origins, archaeologist Jaime de Santana Oliveira said on Monday.

One area shows smooth grooves in the rock thought to be where Indigenous inhabitants once sharpened their arrows and spears long before Europeans arrived.

“The engravings are prehistoric, or precolonial. We cannot date them exactly, but based on evidence of human occupation of the area, we believe they are about 1,000 to 2,000 years old,” Oliveira said in an interview.

The rocky point is called Ponto das Lajes on the north shore of the Amazon near where the Rio Negro and Solimões rivers join.

Oliveira said the carvings were first seen there in 2010, but this year’s drought has been more severe, with the Rio Negro dropping 49.2 feet since July, exposing vast expanses of rocks and sand where there had been no beaches.

“This time we found not just more carvings but the sculpture of a human face cut into the rock,” said Oliveira, who works for the National Historic and Artistic Heritage Institute (IPHAN) that oversees the preservation of historic sites.