Giants once roamed the earth. Oceans teemed with ninety-foot-long whales, huge land animals ate vast quantities of food and, yes, deposited vast quantities of poop.

A new study shows that these whales and outsized land mammals, as well as seabirds and migrating fish, played a vital role in keeping the planet fertile by transporting nutrients from ocean depths and spreading them across seas, up rivers, and deep inland, even to mountaintops. 

However, massive declines and extinctions of many of these animals has deeply damaged this planetary nutrient recycling system, a team of scientists reported October 26 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

In nutrition, the saying goes, 'in the old days you had to be rich to be fat, now you have to be rich to be thin.' 

We have a biological mandate to try and ride out food booms and busts by consuming as many calories as we can, when we can. Rich people can take that out of their hands by paying for people to tell them to exercise and what not to eat and so they won't get gout like they once did. Poor people, with less disposable income, will shop for calorically-dense foods. 

In Thessaloniki for a greek weekend and a wedding, I had a chance this morning to visit the city's archaeological museum. I was not expecting much, although I had a vague recollection that the area is rich with old archaeological sites and tombs, many of which were unearthed in pristine state. Hence I was extremely happy of the wealth of sculptures, jewelry, vases, and objects of all kinds, especially ones from the pre-Ellenistic period.
The collection of jewelry and gold and silver coins was impressive; by itself it was well worth the visit. But two things really made my day: some incredibly beautiful vases from Chios, and the Derveni papyrus.
There has been much public condemnation of the destruction of the Temple of Bel at Palmyra by Islamic State (IS), as well as the wider devastation being inflicted on the cultural heritage of Syria and Iraq by both IS and its opponents in Syria’s civil war.

Both Syria and Iraq are party to all relevant treaties protecting cultural heritage, but this has not stopped the rampant violations. This implies that the problem doesn’t lie with inadequate laws, but rather with compliance and enforcement.

Images of the systematic destruction of archaeological sites and art pieces in Syria are no news any more, but I was especially saddened to see before/after aerial pictures of Palmyra's site today, which demonstrate how the beautiful temple of Bel has been completely destroyed by explosives. A picture of the temple is shown below.

Archaeologists have found evidence of an ancient gold trade route between the south-west of the UK and Ireland, which would mean people were trading gold between the two countries as far back as the early Bronze Age, 2500 B.C.

The finding was made after measuring the chemical composition of early gold artifacts in Ireland and discovering that the objects were actually made from imported gold, rather than Irish. The gold is most likely to have come from Cornwall, which means the symbiotic link between Ireland and England is even farther back then believed.

Lunula and discs. Credit National Museum of Ireland

Remarkably similar carvings and simple cross sculptures mark special sites or places once sacred, spanning a zone stretching from the Irish and Scottish coasts to Iceland. We can look to Skellig Michael, which rises from the sea 12 kilometers off the southwest Irish coast; to Aird a’Mhòrain on the Outer Hebridean island of North Uist; to the Isle of Noss, Shetland; and to Heimaklettur cliff face in Iceland’s Westman Islands.

Also in southern Iceland, a number of the 200 man-made caves found there are marked by similar rock-cut sculpture. And these dark remote places suggest a different answer to a puzzle that we thought we had solved a long time ago.

If you like mummies (and who doesn't like mummies?) you are in luck: The Anatomical Record has a special issue with 26 articles devoted to them, all open access. You may not leave the house this weekend.
Mapping archaeological digs used to take plenty of time and a lot of measuring, photographing, drawing and note taking, much of which can now be done with a technique called photogrammetry.

Photogrammetry is a method that uses two-dimensional images of an archaeological find to construct a 3-D model and it doesn't require special glasses or advanced equipment. Coupled with precise measurements of the excavation, photogrammetry can create a complete detailed map of an archaeological excavation site while being more precise than older, more time-consuming methods.

This method is already being put to use by archaeologists. When a possible Viking grave was found in Skaun in Sør-Trøndelag in 2014, the excavation site was mapped using photogrammetry.
A detailed analysis of the remains of a high-status Danish Bronze Age female, known as the Egtved Girl, has revealed information about her movements, what she ate, and where her clothes came from.

The Egtved Girl, a 16–18 year old female, was discovered in the Danish village of Egtved in an oak coffin, calculated to have been buried around 3,400 years ago.