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Crystal dagger, other items buried with ‘Ivory Lady’ 5,000 years ago

May 26, 2023

Editor’s Note: A version of this story appeared in CNN’s Wonder Theory science newsletter. To get it in your inbox, sign up for free here.

Piecing together the past can be an intricate puzzle.

Individual clues are assembled to capture a glimpse of someone’s life or paint a broader portrait of a distant civilization.

While analysis of DNA is one factor, archaeologists have relied on other clues to gain insight, such as grave goods. Whether or not the true meaning of these objects can ever be deciphered, they often symbolize an individual’s social standing, the role that person played or tools thought necessary for the afterlife.

European archaeologists made a “spectacular” find in 2008 of a tomb near Seville, Spain, that belonged to an ancient individual of great importance.

New research just revealed the discovery was even more unexpected than they realized.

The 5,000-year-old skeleton uncovered in Spain was buried with the crystal dagger shown above and other valuable items. But the individual, initially dubbed the “Ivory Man,” is actually the “Ivory Lady.”

A new method that involves analyzing tooth enamel was used to confirm that the skeleton belonged to a woman, and it has changed the way scientists interpret the entire site.

The Ivory Lady, who possibly held a leadership role, was likely revered by her society for generations after she died. Graves spanning 200 years after her death encircle the woman’s tomb.

“She must have been (a) highly charismatic person. She probably traveled or did have connections with people from faraway lands,” said archaeologist Leonardo García Sanjuán, a professor of prehistory at the University of Seville.

When SpaceX launched Starship in April, the most powerful rocket ever built left its mark on Boca Chica State Park in Texas.

As Starship’s engines roared to life for liftoff, they obliterated the launchpad and sent tangled rebar, chunks of concrete and other debris flying across the protected wilderness.

The park is home to birds such as snowy plovers, a species that experts believe has declined once SpaceX began testing and launching from the site five years ago.

Now, the plovers are nesting in debris hundreds of feet away from the site of a future launch — and some scientists and conservationists believe the launch site’s proximity is just part of a growing list of concerns for both wildlife and local residents.

The high-spirited squawks of yellow-crested cockatoos once carried across the rainforests of Indonesia until tens of thousands of the birds were poached from the wild in the 20th century to be kept as pets.

Only about 2,000 of the critically endangered birds remain — and 10% of them have taken up residence in an unlikely place: bustling Hong Kong.

The city’s feral cockatoo population was likely created as captive birds were released or escaped. And the chatty, adaptable survivors within the urban jungle are growing in numbers, removed from the threats they faced in Indonesia.

At first glance, one of the largest marine animals that prowled the seas 508 million years ago looks like a fearsome predator. But the shrimplike creature, called Anomalocaris canadensis, may just be misunderstood.

Scientists created a 3D reconstruction of the animal, which had an armored mouth, to see how it hunted.

While the researchers determined that the “soft and squishy” creature was unlikely able to chomp down on hard-shelled prey such as trilobites, the team figured out how Anomalocaris really used the spiny appendages sprouting from its head.

Around 20 million years ago, the colossal apex predator megalodon, a type of megatooth shark, emerged as a true terror of the ancient seas. Scientists have now discovered a surprising reason that may have caused its extinction.

When the Ingenuity helicopter took off for its 52nd flight on Mars in April, the little chopper didn’t phone home to let NASA know it landed safely. The silence stretched on for 63 days.

As Ingenuity and the Perseverance rover begin to explore more challenging terrain, obstacles can block communications between the two — and Perseverance is the only one that can “call” Earth.

Perseverance set off on a drive, and as the rover crested a hill at the end of June, it spied Ingenuity sitting safely in its newest airfield.

Meanwhile, the James Webb Space Telescope turned its infrared gaze on Saturn and captured a new photo showcasing the cosmic gleam of its signature rings.

Don’t miss out on these stories:

— Earth reached the hottest global temperature ever recorded this week, and experts warn that record will likely be broken again several more times this year.

— Like humans, snakes may keep each other calm and even help each other reduce their heart rates during stressful situations, according to a new study.

— Doodles drawn in a prayer book were left behind by Henry VIII, and the scholar who spotted them believes the markings reveal telling insights about the infamous English king’s inner life.

— Luminous celestial objects called quasars have helped astronomers determine that time moved in slow motion during the early days of the universe.

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