A young pup that spent 18,000 years buried in Siberian permafrost looks remarkably lifelike and pettable — for a freeze-dried mummy. From its frozen tomb, the Ice Age canine’s body emerged in near-perfect condition, retaining even the pads and nails on its small feet and plenty of hair, down to its tiny eyelashes and delicate whiskers.
The pup still had its milk teeth, suggesting it was under 2 months old when it died; The body is so well preserved that its resemblance to a wolf is clearly visible, The Siberian Times recently reported.
Dogs are descended from wolves, and their lineage may have split from their lupine ancestors’ as early as 40,000 years ago, according to ancient DNA evidence. Scientists at the University of Stockholm’s Centre for Palaeogenetics conducted genetic tests on the Siberian pup’s remains, but they were unable to determine if the mummy represented a dog or a wolf, the Times reported.
DNA analysis did tell the scientists that the pup was a male. They named it “Dogor” — “friend” in the Yakut language — though in English, the name references the mummy’s uncertain status: dog or … something else, according to the Times.
Researchers discovered the mummified pup during the summer of 2018 near the Indigirka River in Yakutia, in the northeastern part of Russia. The oldest known fossil of a domesticated dog dates to 14,700 years ago, though remains of dog-like canines are known from 35,000 years ago, another research team reported in 2017 in the journal Nature. In the study, the scientists suggested that dogs diverged genetically from their wolf ancestors between 36,900 and 41,500 years ago.
What does this mean for the Siberian pup? A mummified canine dating to 18,000 years ago could be a dog, a wolf or possibly even a transitional form — an animal with traits of both species, the Times reported.
“This is intriguing,” said Sergey Fedorov, a researcher with the North-Eastern Federal University in Yakutsk, Russia, and one of the scientists investigating the puppy. “We can’t wait to get results from further tests,” he told the Times.
Preserved in ice
Over the past several years in Siberia, melting permafrost has released some astonishingly well-preserved examples of ancient animals. In 2017, paleontologists unearthed an astonishing mummy of a young horse from a crater in Yakutia; the 2-month-old foal lived 30,000 to 40,000 years ago and its body was whole and undamaged, with its skin and hooves intact. And in 2018, a man searching for mammoth tusks discovered the mummy of a young Ice Age feline. Like the newfound puppy, the wild kitten’s species was hard to pin down, and experts suspect it could be a cave lion or a Eurasian lynx.
Then in June, a man walking by a river in Yakutia in Russia spied the enormous, severed head of an Ice Age wolf, dating to more than 40,000 years ago.
The frozen Siberian wilderness also recently revealed something more gruesome than ancient animal remains: a bag containing 54 severed human hands, buried in snow on a river island and found in 2018. Unlike the Ice Age mummies, the hands were modern in origin and were likely discarded illegally by a nearby forensic lab, according to Russian authorities.
Thieves in the German city of Dresden have broken into one of Europe’s largest collections of art treasures, making off with three sets of 18th-century jewelry of “immeasurable worth” in what German media has described as the biggest such theft since the second world war.
The dramatic heist took place at dawn on Monday, after a fire broke out at an electrical distribution point nearby, deactivating the museum’s alarm and plunging the area into darkness.
Despite the power cut, a surveillance camera filmed two men breaking into the Grünes Gewölbe (Green Vault) at Dresden’s Royal Palace.
Volker Lange, the head of Dresden police, said the thieves smashed a window and cut through a fence before approaching and breaking open a display cabinet in the Grünes Gewölbe’s Jewel Room in “a targeted manner”.
Officers were at the scene within minutes of being alerted to the robbery shortly before 5 am local time, but the suspects had escaped. A burning car found in Dresden early on Monday may have been the getaway vehicle, police said. They have set up roadblocks on motorway approach roads around the city in an attempt to prevent the suspects from leaving. But the close proximity of the gallery to the autobahn is likely to have helped the thieves’ speedy escape, police said.
German media reported the losses from the burglary could run into the high hundreds of millions of euros, but the director of Dresden’s state art collections, Marion Ackermann, said it was impossible to estimate the value of the items.
“We cannot give a value because it is impossible to sell,” she said, appealing to the thieves not to break the collections into pieces. “The material value doesn’t reflect the historic meaning.”
Ackermann said the stolen items included three “priceless” sets of diamonds, including brilliant-cut diamonds which belonged to an 18th-century collection of jewelry assembled by the museum’s founder.
Created by Augustus the Strong, the Elector of Saxony, in 1723, the Grünes Gewölbe is one of 12 museums which make up the famous Dresden state art collections. It got its name because some rooms were decorated with malachite-green paint.
One of the oldest museums in Europe, the Grünes Gewölbe holds treasures including a 63.8 cm figure of a Moor studded with emeralds and a 547.71-carat sapphire gifted by Tsar Peter I of Russia.
The museum is now made up of two sections, one historic and a newer part. It was the historic section, which contains around three-quarters of the museum’s treasures, that was broken into on Monday.
Entrance to the historic vault must be reserved in advance, and there is a strict limit on the number of daily visitors. Exhibits are arranged into nine rooms, including an ivory room, a silver gilt room and the central Hall of Treasures.
Michael Kretschmer, the leader of Saxony, of which Dresden is the capital, said he was devastated by the losses. “Not only the gallery has been robbed, but also the Saxonians,” he said. “You cannot understand the history of our country, or the free state of Saxony, without the Grünes Gewölbe and the state art collections of Saxony.”
The Grünes Gewölbe alone consists of 10 rooms teeming with about 3,000 items of jewelry and other masterpieces. The building was heavily damaged during the second world war but has been successfully restored, reopening to great international fanfare in 2006. It has been a tourist magnet since 1724, when it first opened to the public.
One of the museum’s most famous and precious treasures, the Dresden Green Diamond, is currently on loan with other valuable pieces to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York for an exhibition.
Saxony’s interior minister, Roland Wöller, said: “This is a bitter day for the cultural heritage of Saxony. The thieves stole cultural treasures of immeasurable worth – that is not only the material worth but also the intangible worth to the state of Saxony, which is impossible to estimate.”
Wöller said police had already set up a special team of investigators to pursue the case. “We will do everything in our power not only to bring the cultural treasures back, but to capture the perpetrators,” he said.
Leading international theft experts speculated about the thieves’ motives.
The Dutch “art detective” Arthur Brand, who made headlines earlier this month after uncovering a long-lost gold ring belonging to the writer Oscar Wilde, said the objects might have been stolen by people hoping to sell them, who would soon realise there was little hope of doing so.
“But the second and worst scenario would be professional robbers who just want the objects for their material value, the melted down gold or silver, who would take out the diamonds and sell them separately,” he told Der Spiegel. “But as soon as the works are destroyed, they are of course lost forever.”
Bernhard Pacher, manager of the art auction house Hermann Historica, told the tabloid Bild that if the objects stolen had a value of a billion euros, as initially estimated by police, “even when they are broken down and melted they can still deliver a 100-200 million euro return, which still makes it worth stealing them.”
Ackermann said that security at the state collections would now undergo a thorough review after what appeared to have been a meticulously planned heist.
“An incident like this naturally raises the question as to what can be improved, what can be done differently in future,” she said. “But there’s no such thing as 100% security.”
£100m diamond ‘heist of the century’In 2003, £100m in diamonds were stolen from the Diamond Centre in Antwerp, Belgium. Some of the diamonds have since been recovered.
£90.5m Cannes film-like robberyA thief in Cannes made off with over £90m in jewels in a 2013 smash and grab at a temporary exhibition in the Carlton Hotel, where Alfred Hitchcock filmed To Catch a Thief. The jewels have yet to be found.
£58m airport heistIn 2005, a £58m diamond theft took place at Amsterdam’s Schipol airport. Though the police have recovered some, £43m worth of diamonds are still unaccounted for.
£56m Paris theftIn 2008, Harry Winston’s boutique near Paris’ Champs-Elysees was raided by a group of men in make-up, who lifted £56m of gems and watches.
£40m Mayfair robberyIn 2009, Graff’s Diamond Store in Mayfair was stripped of its rings and diamonds worth more than £40m. It is likely that the jewels have been broken down and sold onto unregulated international markets. Oliver Taylor
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Nature and science museums make up some of the most prestigious collections in the world. From San Francisco’s Exploratorium and the Science Museum in London to the Deutsches Museum in Munich and the Field Museum in Chicago, there are plenty to choose from. But there are a ton of lesser-known, quirky and odd museums that pack a punch. Here are four of the best and funkiest museums not focused on nature and science:
Idaho Potato Museum
In a place known for its potatoes, it’d be a shame if Idaho didn’t have a potato museum. Luckily, it does. Located in Blackfoot, Idaho, the potato museum holds the world’s largest potato chip, measuring in at 25 inches by 14 inches. There’s a timeline of the history of potato consumption in the U.S. In fact, the introduction of fries to the White House menu was selected way back during the presidency of Thomas Jefferson. Peruvian-made 1,600-year-old vessels believed to be the first containers to be used specifically for potato storage are also on display, along with a hall of fame.
The Momofuku Ando Instant Ramen Museum in Osaka, Japan, is dedicated to instant noodles and Cup Noodles, as well as the company’s creator and founder Momofuku Ando. Admission is free, and you’ll see more ramen than you could even imagine in one place. There is even a noodle factory where visitors can assemble their own personal cup.
Museum of Bad Art
With “art too bad to be ignored,” the Museum of Bad Art, with multiple locations around eastern Massachusetts, is a privately-owned museum featuring the work of artists “whose work would be displayed and appreciated in no other forum.” It’s so bad that it’s good. Or maybe not. In any case, a famous piece of theirs, Lucy in the Field With Flowers, was acquired from the trash in Boston. Others were donated by the artist or perhaps by a relative. The museum has spurned a trend in other areas, and it’s sometimes described as “anti-art.” However, the owners dispute that, saying the collection is a tribute to the sincerity of the artists who persevered despite something going wrong in the process.
Cancun Underwater Museum
Devoted to art conservation, the Cancun Underwater Museum features 500 underwater sculptures, mostly by the British sculptor Jason deCaires Taylor, but also by local Mexican artists. Known as MUSA (Museo Subacuatico de Arte), the project demonstrates the interaction between art and environmental science. They have three different galleries submerged 3-6 meters deep in the ocean at Cancun National Marine Park. The objective of the museum, opened in 2010, was to save nearby coral reefs by providing an alternative destination for divers. The statues also have holes in them, allowing marine life to colonize and feed off of the coral growing at the site.
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