The mysterious ‘Tully Monster’ fossil just got more mysterious

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF PHYSICS.ORG)

 

The mysterious ‘Tully Monster’ fossil just got more mysterious

The mysterious 'Tully Monster' fossil just got more mysterious
Artist’s impression of Tullimonstrum. Credit: PaleoEquii/WikipediaCC BY-SA

Every now and again, scientists discover fossils that are so bizarre they defy classification, their body plans unlike any other living animals or plants. Tullimonstrum (also known as the Tully Monster), a 300 m-year-old fossil discovered in the Mazon Creek fossil beds in Illinois, US, is one such creature.

At first glance, Tully looks superficially slug-like. But where you would expect its mouth to be, the creature has a long thin appendage ending in what looks like a pair of grasping claws. Then there are its eyes, which protrude outward from its body on stalks.

Tully is so strange that scientists have even been unable to agree on whether it is a vertebrate (with a backbone, like mammals, birds, reptiles and fish) or an invertebrate (without a backbone, like insects, crustaceans, octopuses and all other ). In 2016, a group of scientists claimed to have solved the mystery of Tully, providing the strongest evidence yet that it was a vertebrate. But my colleagues and I have conducted a new study that calls this conclusion into question, meaning this monster is as mysterious as ever.

The Tully Monster was originally discovered in the 1950s by a fossil collector named Francis Tully. Ever since its discovery scientists have puzzled over which group of modern animals Tully belongs to. The enigma of Tully’s true evolutionary relationships has added to its popularity, ultimately leading it to become the state fossil of Illinois.

The mysterious 'Tully Monster' fossil just got more mysterious
The Tullimonstrum fossil. Credit: Ghedoghedo/Wikimedia, CC BY-SA

There have been many attempts to classify the Tully Monster. The majority of these studies have focused on the appearance of some of its more prominent features. These include a linear feature in the fossil interpreted as evidence of a gut, the light and dark banding of the fossil and the peculiar grasping claws of its mouth. The body plan of the Tully Monster is so unusual in it’s entirety that it will greatly expand the diversity of of whatever group it ultimately belongs to, changing the way we think about that group of animals.

The 2016 research argued the animal should be grouped with vertebrates because its eyes contain  called melanosomes, which are arranged by shape and size in the same way as those in vertebrate eyes. But our research shows that the eyes of some invertebrates such as octopus and squid also contain melanosomes partitioned by shape and size in a similar way to Tully’s eyes, and that these an also be preserved in fossils.

Particle accelerator research

To do this, we used a type of particle accelerator called a  light source located at Stanford University in California. This allowed us to explore the chemical makeup of samples from fossils and from animals living today. The synchrotron bombards specimens with intense bursts of radiation to “excite” the elements within them. When excited, each element releases X-rays with a specific signature. By detecting the emitted X-ray signatures, we can tell what elements were excited and ultimately what the specimen we’re interested in is made of.

The mysterious 'Tully Monster' fossil just got more mysterious
Another possible look for the Tully Monster. Credit: Nobu Tamura/Wikimedia, CC BY-SA

First we found that melanosomes from the eyes of modern vertebrates have a higher ratio of zinc to copper than the modern invertebrates we studied. To our surprise, we then found the same pattern could be seen in fossilized vertebrates and invertebrates found at Mazon Creek.

We then analysed the chemistry of Tully’s eyes and the ratio of zinc to copper was more similar to that of invertebrates than vertebrates. This suggests the animal may not have been a vertebrate, contradicting previous efforts to classify it.

We also found that Tully’s eyes contain different type of copper to that found in vertebrate eyes. But the copper also wasn’t identical to that in the invertebrates we studied. So while our work adds weight to the idea that Tully is not a vertebrate, it doesn’t clearly identify it as an invertebrate either.

Where do we go from here? A broader analysis of the chemistry of melanosomes and other pigments in the eyes of a wider range of invertebrates would be a good next step. This may help to further narrow down the group of animals to which Tully belongs.

Ultimately the riddle of what kind of creature the Tully Monster is continues. But our research demonstrates how studying fossils at the chemical and molecular levels can play an important part in figuring out the identity of this and other enigmatic creature.

NASA Scientist: Dinosaurs roamed the Earth on the other side of the Milky Way galaxy

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE BUSINESS INSIDER)

 

A NASA scientist’s incredible animation shows how dinosaurs roamed the Earth on the other side of the Milky Way galaxy

dinosaur park snow serbia dinosaurs
A dinosaur park sees freezing weather and snowfall in Belgrade, Serbia, February 26, 2018. 
REUTERS/Djordje Kojadinovic

When dinosaurs ruled the Earth, the planet was on a completely different side of the galaxy.

A new animation by NASA scientist Jessie Christiansen shows just how long the dinosaurs’ reign lasted, and how short the era of humans has been in comparison, by tracing our solar system’s movement through the Milky Way.

Our sun orbits the galaxy’s center, completing its rotation every 250 million years or so. So Christiansen’s animation shows that last time our solar system was at its current point in the galaxy, the Triassic Period was in full swing and dinosaurs were just beginning to emerge. Many of the most iconic dinosaurs roamed Earth when the planet was in a very different part of the Milky Way.

Christiansen got the idea to illustrate this history when she was leading a stargazing party at California Institute of Technology in Pasadena. Attendees were astonished when she mentioned that our solar system had been across the galaxy when dinosaurs roamed.

“That was the first time I realized that those time scales — archaeological, fossil record time scales and astronomical time scales — actually kind of match along together,” Christiansen told Business Insider. “Then I had this idea that I could map out dinosaur evolution through the galaxy’s rotation.”

The resulting video puts both timelines in perspective:

Dr. Jessie Christiansen

@aussiastronomer

I have always been interested in galactic archaeology, but I don’t think this is what they meant.

Did you know that dinosaurs lived on the other side of the Galaxy?

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Christiansen said it took her about four hours to make the film using timed animations in PowerPoint. She also noted a couple minor corrections to the text in her video: plesiosaurs are not dinosaurs, and we complete a galactic orbit every 250 million years (not 200 million years).

‘A spiral through space’

Galactic movement is more complicated than the video shows, though. The other stars and planetary systems in the galaxy are also moving, at different speeds and in different orbits. The inner portions spin faster than the outer regions.

What’s more, the galaxy itself is moving through space, slowly approaching the nearby Andromeda galaxy.

“The animation kind of makes it seem like we’ve come back to the same spot, but in reality the whole galaxy has moved a very long way,” Christiansen said. “It’s more like we’re doing a spiral through space. As the whole galaxy’s moving and we’re rotating around the center, it kind of creates this spiral.”

milky way galaxy center spitzer infrared
The center of our Milky Way galaxy, imaged by the Spitzer Space Telescope’s infrared cameras, October 9, 2019. 
NASA, JPL-Caltech, Susan Stolovy (SSC/Caltech) et al.

So in the solar system’s rotation around the galactic center, we’re not returning to a fixed point. The neighborhood is different from the last time we were here.

Earth, however, is not drastically different; it still supports complex life. That’s partially thanks to the path of our sun’s galactic orbit.

“Our solar system doesn’t travel to the center of the galaxy and then back again. We always stay about this distance away,” Christiansen said.

In other words, even as our solar system travels through the Milky Way, it doesn’t approach the inhospitable center, where life probably wouldn’t survive.

“There’s a lot of stars, it’s dynamically unstable, there’s a lot of radiation,” Christiansen said. “Our solar system certainly doesn’t pass through that.”

That’s a huge part of why dinosaurs, mammals, or any other form of life can exist on Earth.

SEE ALSO: A huge explosion sliced through our galaxy just 3.5 million years ago, as human ancestors walked the Earth. Scientists think it was nuclear activity in the black hole at the Milky Way’s center.

DON’T MISS: The best microscope photos of the year reveal a strange and hidden universe in astonishing detail

More: Space dinosaurs Milky Way Galaxy

Egypt unveils discovery of 30 ancient coffins with mummies inside

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)

 

Egypt unveils discovery of 30 ancient coffins with mummies inside

Egyptian authorities have unveiled 30 ancient wooden coffins recently discovered in Luxor.

(CNN)Egyptian authorities on Saturday revealed the contents of 30 ancient wooden coffins discovered in Luxor and yes, they include mummies.

Mostafa Waziri, secretary general of the Supreme Council of Antiquities, told reporters the discovery was the country’s largest in more than a century.
It is the first cache of coffins to be discovered by an Egyptian mission, after years of foreign-led archaeological digs.
Egyptian archeologist open a coffin belonging to a man in front Hatshepsut Temple in Luxor on October 19, 2019.

“The last one was in 1891, [led by] foreigners. 1881, [also] foreigners. But … 2019 is an Egyptian discovery,” Waziri said. “This is an indescribable feeling, I swear to God.”
The discovery was unveiled in front of Hatshepsut Temple at Valley of the Kings in Luxor.
Egyptian Minister of Antiquities Khaled El-Enany described the 3,000-year-old coffins, which were buried in Al-Asasif Cemetery, as “exceptionally well-preserved, exceptionally well-colored.”
They contained the mummified remains of men and women, as well as two children, who are believed to be from the middle class, Waziri said.
Tourists view the newly discovered coffins at Hatshepsut Temple on October 19, 2019.

According to archaeologist Zahi Hawass, finding coffins belonging to a child is a rare occurrence. The discovery of two have caused tremendous interest “worldwide,” he said.
The coffins were sealed, stacked on top of each other and arranged in two rows about three feet below the sand, he said.
They are adorned with intricate carvings and designs, including Egyptian deities, hieroglyphics and scenes from the Book of the Dead, a series of spells that enabled the soul to navigate the afterlife.
Officials said the first coffin was discovered because it was partially exposed. When they continued to dig, 17 more coffins were found. After those coffins were excavated, the archeologists discovered an additional 12.
An open coffin displayed in Luxor reveals a mummy.

Hawass told reporters during a press event that the discovery reveals important details about ancient Egyptian burial rights, such as how they respected the dead regardless of gender or age.
“This will enrich our knowledge as Egyptologists about the belief of the afterlife,” Hawass said.
The mummies will be restored before being moved to a museum of ancient Egyptian artifacts near the Giza pyramids. The coffins will be given their own exhibit.
“They will be moved to the Grand Egyptian Museum, which will be opening at the end of 2020, as a new surprise for our visitors,” said El-Enany.

When did the dinosaurs roam Earth?

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF TRIVIA GENIUS)

 

Science

When did the dinosaurs roam Earth?

The age of the dinosaurs has fascinated the modern imagination for centuries. Often, we are tempted to think of the era as an ancient time when all our favorite dinosaurs squared off against one another in a battle of survival.

However, dinosaurs ruled Earth for a period spanning hundreds of millions of years, during which world-ending events occurred, and the planet changed in ways that are almost difficult to imagine. Here is a guide to the different time periods during which the dinosaurs roamed the planet.

Mesozoic Era

Illustration of dinosaurs during the Mesozoic Era
Credit: CoreyFord/ iStock

The overall time period in which the dinosaurs lived was known as the Mesozoic Era. The Mesozoic Era lasted 180 million years, from 248 million years ago to 65 million years ago. It was preceded by the Paleozoic era, during which life began to take shape, and was followed by the Cenozoic Era, in which we live.

The Mesozoic Era is divided into three distinct time periods:

  • The Triassic Period – 248 million to 206 million years ago
  • The Jurassic Period – 206 million to 146 million years ago
  • The Cretaceous Period – 146 million to 65 million years ago

During the Mesozoic Era, mountains rose, climates shifted, and life reshaped itself multiple times.

Triassic period

Fossil of a pterosaur
Credit: AKKHARAT JARUSILAWONG/ Shutterstock

The first period of the Mesozoic era was the Triassic period. During this time, all the continents were still connected in one giant super continent, known as Pangaea. Temperatures were warmer and there were no polar ice caps.

The oceans teemed with life during this period. Turtles and fish were common, and the corals developed alongside mollusks and ammonites. Large marine reptiles were present as well, such as the plesiosaurus and ichthyosaurus.

On land, early dinosaurs and mammals evolved, and the first flying reptiles, the pterosaurs, took to the skies. There were no flowering plants or grass present during the Triassic period, but cycads, ferns and ginkgoes grew near water sources such as rivers or streams. Small forests of conifers grew in some parts of Pangaea, but for the most part, inland areas were arid deserts with little or no plant or animal life.

Jurassic period

Illustration of Brachiosaurs
Credit: Orla/ iStock

The Triassic period came to an end with a mass extinction that wiped out over 90 percent of the species on Earth. The animals that survived this event began to repopulate the planet and usher in the Jurassic period.

The Jurassic period was marked by the slow break-up of Pangaea into two smaller landmasses known as Laurasia and Gondwana. When the supercontinent split, new mountains arose in the sea, pushing the sea level up and creating a much wetter, more humid environment.

Ferns and mosses covered much of the ground while the small coniferous forest of the Triassic period expanded to cover wide swaths of the two continents.

Giant dinosaurs ruled the land, the largest of which was the plant-eating Brachiosaurs, which scientists believe could grow to be 80 feet long and 50 feet tall. These large herbivores were hunted by massive carnivores such as the Allosaurus.

The Jurassic period also saw the first birds diverge from the reptile family, and the Archaeopteryx flew above these massive dinosaurs.

Cretaceous period

Skeleton of a Tyrannosaurus Rex
Credit: DavidHCoder/ iStock

During the Cretaceous period, the continents continued to drift apart and end in the locations that we know them today. The climate became both wetter and cooler, resulting in the emergence of the polar ice caps and setting the stage for the glaciers that covered large parts of North America, Europe, and Asia in the following era.

The drifting continents resulted in increased specialization and many new types of dinosaurs. Triceratops and Iguanodon traveled in herds, feasting on the ancestors of the flowers, herbs and broad-leaved trees that populate Earth today.

These massive plant-eating animals were hunted by the famous Tyrannosaurus Rex. Snakes first developed during this time period, as well as crocodiles and turtles. Insects and pterosaurs flew in the air, and the first mammals scurried across the ground.

Despite the proliferation of life during this period, another mass extinction followed a natural disaster at the end of the Cretaceous period. While both reptiles and mammals survived in small numbers, the age of the dinosaurs came to an end.

What’s next?

Earth as viewed from space
Credit: dem10/ iStock

In light of this vast history, do you ever wonder what lies ahead for both Earth and us?

3 Ancient Structures That Have Remained Untouched

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF TRAVEL TRIVIA)

 

3 Ancient Structures That Have Remained Untouched

Since the dawn of history, humans have created impressive structures that served as a record of their existence and ingenuity. Some structures like the pyramids of Giza leave us awestruck because of their engineering feats. And others like the Great Wall of China were more than just a pretty façade, but a necessary aspect of a national defense strategy.

Regardless of the stories behind why these structures were built, what matters now is that we can still experience them. And if you’re gathering inspiration for a vacation steeped in history, these ancient structures should be on your bucket list. Because of the cultural and historical importance of these structures, it is impossible to find a historical place that hasn’t been aided by modern conservation efforts.

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The Parthenon – Athens, Greece

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Today, when you think of a place of worship, you probably picture a churchtemple, or mosque designed for a monotheistic (one deity) religion. But in ancient times, pantheistic religions (worshiping multiple gods) were much more common. So, it wasn’t strange to erect multiple structures within a civilization that were dedicated to multiple deities. One of the most notable ancient pantheistic religions was in Greece. The Parthenon in Athens is a perfect example and was constructed to allow local Athenians to celebrate and worship Athena, the goddess best known for presiding over wisdom. In other words, Athena is the patron god of Athens, and the city felt it wise to honor her.

But the Parthenon as you know it today wasn’t the first version. In fact, it’s the third version (Parthenon III) that replaced two earlier structures built in 570 BCE (Parthenon I) and 480 BCE (Parthenon II). Incidentally, Parthenon II was destroyed during the Battle of Marathon around 490 BCE by the Persians. But in case you’re concerned that the current Parthenon is too modern, don’t be. It was constructed between 447 and 438 BCE.

Carnac Stones – Brittany, France

Credit: Greg Salmon / Shutterstock.com

So, the Parthenon is a fairly straightforward ancient site that doesn’t require a suspension of belief for you to enjoy it. Its architecture is in line with other buildings from that era. But there are other ancient structures in other parts of the world that defy logic and continue to confound historians and experts. The Carnac Stones in the Brittany region of France is the perfect example of an ancient structure that’s out of place with other architecture and scientific advancements of its time. Officially, the Carnac Stones were compiled sometime between 3,300 and 4,500 BCE. They’re comprised of 3,000 prehistoric stones that serve as a representation of well-known geological alignments from that era.

For years, scientists struggled to understand what the Carnac Stones meant until they stumbled across geoglyphology in 2004. Geoglyphology is a way in which an ancient culture marked its physical territory. The concept isn’t unique to Carnac as multiple ancient cultures around the world used it to outline their areas of influence. But Carnac’s version of geoglyphology is unique — often viewed as a methodology too advanced for its time. Consider that Stonehenge was erected during the same time period but was considered far easier to decipher.

Aqueduct of Segovia – Segovia, Spain

Credit: Sean Pavone / Shutterstock.com

Every structure serves a form of functionality, but some buildings or edifices are more utilitarian than others. The Aqueduct of Segovia is one such phenomenon. It embodies the architectural style of the Roman Empire while also serving an essential purpose — supplying water to the city of Segovia. In fact, the aqueduct was so efficient that it served as a water supply from the Frio River when it was first developed during the first century CE until the 20th century.

As if that’s not impressive enough, try to comprehend the fact that this stone structure was created with little to no mortar. Today the aqueduct is just over 8.5 miles long and features an average height of nearly 100 feet. To this day, the Aqueduct of Segovia is considered one of the best-preserved representations of a Roman aqueduct. Even though the structure continued to be used well into the 20th century, it wasn’t maintained as it should be. It wasn’t until the 1970s that a serious conservation effort was launched to preserve its remaining portions. In 1985, the Aqueduct of Segovia officially became a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The Oldest Structures You’ll Ever See

Credit: Sven Hansche / Shutterstock.com

There are so many impressive ancient structures in the world that it was hard to narrow it down to just the three we listed here. But each of the ones we selected feature an interesting piece of trivia that you probably didn’t know until today. Whether you choose to visit these places or draft a different itinerary, we hope that you’ll appreciate the ingenuity and creativity of the ancient people who created these.

4 Best Countries to Retire In

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF TRAVEL TRIVIA)

 

4 Best Countries to Retire In

With great exchange rates, beautiful weather, and locals welcoming of U.S. expats, it’s not surprising these four countries to our south stand out as retirement meccas. One of them, Mexico, is so close and so easy to assimilate to, it makes perfect sense to shift your life and assets south of the border for the golden years. Slightly more exotic and further afield, Central American and South American locales with tropical tendencies and inexpensive living round out the righteous retirement roster.

Ecuador

Credit: f11photo/Shutterstock

Straddling the equator on the west coast of South America, Ecuador is where diverse geographies and ecosystems collide, with the Amazon jungle, Andean highlands, and the wildlife-rich Galápagos Islands all lying within the country’s boundaries. This confluence of land forms equates to excellent weather throughout the entire country, for sunshiny days without the mugginess factor.

The capital, Quito, sits at an elevation of nearly 10,000 feet in the Andean foothills, with a moderate mountain climate most of the year. Quito is renowned for its intact Spanish colonial center, palaces, and churches — along with big-city conveniences. Head down to the coast for warm weather all year. With reasonable beachfront real estate prices and low property taxes, retirees get a lot for their money here. Consider that a home on the Pacific Ocean can be had for $150,000, and that home prices and rental rates in the interior are far less expensive than that. So whether you prefer lush green valleys, ocean views, or mountain village life, Ecuador is a retirement dream.

Mexico

Credit: photopixel/Shutterstock

If you are concerned about how far your Social Security earnings might go after retirement — or if you simply want to retire more extravagantly — Mexico is an obvious choice for life after work. The cost of living is so low that you can, in many places, subsist quite substantially on Social Security alone. Factor in the solid exchange rate, and Mexico just makes sense.

Beyond cost, there is the wonderful culture and climate of our southern neighbor to take into account. Sandwiched between the southern U.S. and Central America, Mexico boasts both Pacific Ocean and Gulf of Mexico beaches for miles. The huge, ecologically diverse country also enjoys desert, mountain, and jungle landscapes throughout its many regions. From small beach towns like Cancun to the metropolis of Mexico City, retirees will find a country steeped in the ancient and the modern. Throughout the country are scattered important archaeological sites such as  Teotihuacán and the Mayan city of Chichén Itzá, along with Spanish colonial-era historic towns. Meanwhile, Mexico City’s trendy shops, world-class museums and gourmet dining display modern Mexico.

Costa Rica

Credit: SL-Photography/Shutterstock

With pristine coastal beaches on both the Caribbean and Pacific shores, Costa Rica is a tropical paradise, yet in contrast its interior is a rugged, rain-forested area studded with volcanoes. Much of the country – about a quarter of it – is protected jungle preserves with thriving biodiversity and wildlife, such as spider monkeys and exotic quetzal birds. Areas humans do inhabit are known for wonderful climate, an incredible cost of living, bargain real estate prices, and quality health care.

The capital is San Jose, where the climate is referred to as “eternal spring,” if that gives you an idea how nice it is year-round. The same is true for the rest of the surrounding Central Valley. Coastal beach towns are hot and dry, but benefit from cooling marine breezes, while the lush landscape in the southern part of the country remains moist and temperate. With such great weather, Costa Rico is perfect for outdoor-loving, active retirees into fishing, golf, horseback riding, hiking, diving, or yoga.

Panama

Credit: Gualberto Becerra/Shutterstock

Look at it this way: Not only is Panama modern and convenient — with close access back to the U.S. to visit the grand-kids — but it’s also a tropical paradise. Even if you choose to live in the capital, Panama City, amidst the modern hustle, your city park is a tropical rain-forest. Taking up the center of the isthmus linking Central and South America, Panama is famous for its Panama Canal, which was sliced through the center of the country in order to link the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, creating an essential and strategic international trade route.

Panama City’s modern skyscrapers, casinos, and nightclubs are juxtaposed with historic colonial buildings, many in the Casco Viejo district. As mentioned, Natural Metropolitan Park is a large patch of rain-forest preserved in the city. With no taxes on income earned outside of Panama, retirees can keep costs low even in metro Panama City. For even more value, head to more remote mountain and beach towns for pretty scenery and peaceful vibes, places such as Coronado, the Pedasi region and Bocas del Toro, among other retirement gems. No wonder Panama ranked at the top of the 2019 Annual Global Retirement Index.

5 Amazing Things You Should Know About Yemen

(This article is courtesy of travel trivia)

 

5 Amazing Things You Should Know About Yemen

Think fast! What do you know about the country of Yemen? Aside from its involvement in the socio-political event known as Arab Spring, you might be drawing a blank. And in all fairness, it’s not your fault. Compared to better known Middle Eastern countries like Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, or even Iraq and Iran, Yemen is often overlooked. But we have a few amazing facts about “Arabia Felix” (the happy land) that will make you want to know more about this unique country.

It’s Home to One of the Oldest Occupied Cities in the World

Credit: Anton_Ivanov / Shutterstock

Yes, Yemen is that old. Sana’a is not only the capital city, but it’s also a city with ancient roots. Sana’a has served as a home to its people for over 2,500 years, is the country’s largest city, and it serves as a major transit hub for other popular stops within the nation. But the populous city is also the seventh-highest capital in the world, sitting at over 7,500 feet above sea level.

Socotra Island Is One of the Most Isolated Places on Earth

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Socotra island is a place so unique that you can’t find a third of the flora or fauna elsewhere in the world. It’s located in an archipelago off the coast of Yemen and has been dubbed Alien Island because of its unique wildlife. But Socotra is also called the pearl of the Indian Ocean. Archeologists, scientists and anthropologists have been visiting the island for years because of the unique biodiversity. But tourists are starting to recognize this untapped gem as well. Flights connect out of Sana’a and the UAE if you have your heart set on Socotra.

Yemen Is Home to the “Manhattan of the Desert”

Credit: Judith Liener / Shutterstock

When you think of skyscrapers, you probably imagine modern cities like New York or Tokyo. But the concept of urban planning is far older than both of these cities and their iconic histories. Shibam is a 16th-century city that first embraced the idea of “building up” rather than urban sprawl. And the ancient city is also listed on the UNESCO World Heritage Site list. The walled city features a variety of buildings as tall as seven stories, which is pretty impressive considering that the structures are made of mud bricks. It’s important to note that several buildings throughout the city date back as far as the ninth century during pre-Islamic times.

You Have to Try the National Dish “Saltah”

Credit: Judith Liener / Shutterstock

One of the best ways to get to know a culture is through its cuisine. And Yemen is a nation with plenty of unique dishes that help it stand out from other countries within the Arabian peninsula and the greater Middle East. Saltah is a shorter way of saying “salatah,” which further translates to “a combination of vegetables.” You might know that as a salad. The dish has its origins from the Ottoman Empire and was believed to be made from charitable leftover food donations from wealthy families and area mosques. Today, the dish features a meat broth base, fenugreek froth, a mix of tomatoes, peppers, herbs, and garlic, and usually lamb or beef for the meat. However, some variations include potatoes and other ingredients.

Yemen Has Roots That Go Back to the Bible

Credit: Dmitry Chulov / Shutterstock

Even if you’re not particularly religious, it’s still pretty awe-inspiring when you walk through ancient lands that figured prominently in well-known literary works. Before the country was known as Yemen, it went by a few other names. It was first known as Sheba when it served as the stronghold for the Queen of Sheba. But you might also know it as the “land of milk and honey” during Noah’s time. And the story of Jesus and the Three Wise Men with their gifts of frankincense and myrrh also took place in this ancient land.

Historic Sites to Visit in Morocco

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF TRAVEL TRIVIA)

 

Historic Sites to Visit in Morocco

A visit to Morocco is an intoxicating journey back in time where you’ll find snake charmers and bustling bazaars selling a dizzying array of exotic treasures alongside stunning architecture and ruins. Morocco lies along Africa’s northwestern coast with beaches stretching from the Mediterranean Sea to the Atlantic Ocean. The beautiful coastlines, combined with several mountain ranges and the Sahara Desert, give Morocco a diverse landscape. Given its strategic location just miles from Spain across the Strait of Gibraltar, Morocco is awash in history with influences from Portuguese, Spanish, French, Roman, Arabian and Berberian cultures. You could spend weeks trekking and exploring Morocco’s multitude of historic sites, but these five shouldn’t be missed!

Ksar at Ait-Ben-Haddou

Credit: Starcevic/iStockphoto

Founded in 757, Ait Benhaddou is an ancient earthen city constructed from clay bricks surrounded by thick, defensive walls and corner towers. The Ksar, which means a cluster of dwellings, has been a favorite of Hollywood producers — the Ksar at Ait Benhaddou was the backdrop in films and shows such as “Lawrence of Arabia,” “The Jewel of Nile,” “The Mummy,” “Gladiator,” “Alexander” and “Game of Thrones.” Far more than just a film set, UNESCO added the Ksar at Ait Benhaddou to its list of World Heritage Sites in 1987 for its extraordinary examples of pre-Saharan earthen construction techniques and architectural authenticity. Although people still live in some of the dwellings, you can tour the buildings on your own or with a guide.

Medina of Essaouira

Credit: Jon Chica/Shutterstock

Another UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Medina of Essaouira is an outstanding example of a mid-18th century fortified town loaded with European military architecture. Situated on the windy Atlantic coast, the Medina, or old part, has played an essential role over the centuries as a strategically significant international trading port. Originally called Mogador, Essaouira offers secluded alleyways, colorful fishing boats, ancient fort ramparts built by the Portuguese in the 1500s, abundant marketplaces, enticing food, exhilarating windsurfing and a vibrant music scene. You can also stop by the Sidi Mohamed Ben Abdallah Museum to see pottery, weapons, jewelry, tools and a fantastic collection of photographs of local architecture.

Medina of Fez

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You may be starting to see a trend here, as the Medina of Fez has been on UNESCO’s World Heritage Site list since 1981 (Morocco is home to nine World Heritage Sites). With roots back to the ninth century, Fez grew in importance during the 13th and 14th centuries when it replaced Marrakech as Morocco’s capital. Come to Fez Medina to see one of the best-conserved historic towns in the Arab-Muslim world.

You’ll find one of the world’s most complex city labyrinths and its oldest university, the University of Al Quaraouiyine, at Fez Medina. Be prepared to get a little lost among its tangled car-free alleyways and beautiful historic military, civil and religious monuments including palaces, leather tanneries, fountains, mosques and homes. You can even rent some of these exclusive properties and experience how people lived in the ninth century!

Historic City of Meknes

Credit: Leonid Anronov/iStockphoto

Continuing our UNESCO World Heritage Site trend, the Historic City of Meknes was added to the list in 1996 for its superb examples of well-preserved Spanish-Moorish architecture, including the Mausoleum of Moulay Ismail. The ambitious, ruthless Sultan Moulay Ismail had the imperial city built during the 17th century and is buried in the mausoleum. The tyrannical sultan ruled from 1672 to 1727 and housed as many as 60,000 slaves in a nearby prison whose sole job was to work on his final masterpiece: his resting place. You can visit the eerie, dank dungeons today.

You’ll find massive ramparts reaching almost 50 feet high and several amazing gates, with the largest and most impressive door to the city being Bab el Mansour. Believed to be one of the most stunning gates in Morocco, Bab el Mansour is well worth a visit to marvel at its elaborate patterns of green and white zellige tiles and engraved Koranic panels.

Archaeological Site of Volubilis

Credit: zodebala/iStockphoto

While yet another UNESCO World Heritage site, Volubilis dates back much further than many of Morocco’s other historic sites — Romans built this spectacular city around 40 A.D. on an old Berber settlement dating back to the third century. Volubilis served as the capital of ancient Mauretania and was one of the Romans’ southernmost cities.

Volubilis has seen 10 centuries of occupation, from pre-Roman to the Islamic period, until it was abandoned in the 11th century. Archeologists have discovered a substantial amount of artistic material, including marble and bronze statuary, beautifully preserved mosaics and hundreds of inscriptions. Many Volubilis residents were believed to be wealthy due to the rich agricultural opportunities the surrounding fertile land offered — and their homes reflect this. Be sure to visit the House of Orpheus, a large private home filled with stunning mosaics as beautiful today as the day they were created. The house also includes a private hammam (steam bath) with a solarium and hot and cold rooms. Although long-ago looters have taken the granite and marble to build structures in nearby Meknes and Moulay Idriss, many of the structures are incredibly well-preserved.

Israel: Ancient Galilee church unearthed

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

 

Ancient Galilee church unearthed, said to be home to apostles Peter and Andrew

Israeli archaeologist says dig at El-Araj, near Sea of Galilee, confirms it as the site of fishing village Bethsaida

In this file photo taken on August 6, 2017, a general view of an archaeological excavation site, believed to be the location of a biblical village that was home to Saint Peter, near the Sea of Galilee in northern Israel. (Menahem Kahana/AFP)

In this file photo taken on August 6, 2017, a general view of an archaeological excavation site, believed to be the location of a biblical village that was home to Saint Peter, near the Sea of Galilee in northern Israel. (Menahem Kahana/AFP)

AFP — Excavations in Israel’s Galilee have uncovered remains of an ancient church said to mark the home of the apostles Peter and Andrew, the dig’s archaeological director said Friday.

Mordechai Aviam of Kinneret Academic College, on the shore of the Sea of Galilee in northern Israel, said this season’s dig at nearby El-Araj confirmed it as the site of Bethsaida, a fishing village where Peter and his brother Andrew were born according to the Gospel of John.

The Byzantine church was found near remnants of a Roman-era settlement, matching the location of Bethsaida as described by the first century AD Roman historian Flavius Josephus, Aviam said.

The newly discovered church, he added, fitted the account of Willibald, the Bavarian bishop of Eichstaett who visited the area around 725 AD and reported that a church at Bethsaida had been built on the site of Peter and Andrew’s home.

According to Willibald, Aviam says, Bethsaida lay between the biblical sites of Capernaum and Kursi.

“We excavated only one third of the church, a bit less, but we have a church and that’s for sure,” Aviam told AFP.

Co-directors of the Galilee early church excavations at their recent dig site, historian Jacob Ashkenazi and archaeologist Mordechai Aviam from the Kinneret Institute for Galilean Archaeology at the Kinneret Academic College (courtesy Mordechai Aviam)

“The plan is of a church, the dates are Byzantine, the mosaic floors are typical… chancel screens, everything that is typical of a church.”

“Between Capernaum and Kursi there is only one place where a church is described by the visitor in the eighth century and we discovered it, so this is the one,” he said.

Christians recognize Saint Peter, originally a fisherman, as one of the first followers of Jesus and the leader of the early Church following the ascension.

The Catholic Church also venerates him as its first pope.

El-Araj, known as Beit Habeck in Hebrew, is not the only candidate for the site of Bethsaida.

About two kilometers (more than a mile) away at e-Tell, digging has been going on since 1987 and according to the National Geographic website has unearthed major ninth-century BC fortifications and “Roman-period houses with fishing equipment, including iron anchors and fishing hooks, and the remains of what may be a Roman temple.”

Aviam is convinced that he and his international team, with professor R. Steven Notley of New York City’s Nyack College as academic director, are digging in the right spot.

“We have a Roman village, in the village we have pottery, coins, also stone vessels which are typical of first century Jewish life, so now we strengthen our suggestion and identification that El-Araj is a much better candidate for Bethsaida than e-Tell,” he said.

“It has been excavated for the past 32 years. We started digging two years ago because we thought it’s the better one and now we have the proofs.”

Notley, interviewed in Israeli daily Haaretz, is a little more cautious, saying the clincher will be if complete excavation of the El-Araj church reveals an inscription.

“It would be normal to find an inscription in a church of the Byzantine period, describing in whose memory it was built, for instance,” he told the paper.

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