Diversity + Innovation = Business Success

Sponsored by Amway


Why a more diverse workplace is also a more talented one

Ram Charan has spent his working life as a business mentor and consultant to CEOs of global companies. He's the guy that Coca-Cola, KLM, GE, and Bank of America (just to name a few) call when they need help. And he's a firm believer in a diverse workplace. If a 90-year-old can do the job the best, then why not hire them? Raw talent doesn't just exist in ivy league business schools, he says, and that applies to the whole company... from the work floor to the boardroom. Ram's latest book is Talent Wins: The New Playbook for Putting People First , and he is brought to you today by Amway. Amway believes that ​diversity and inclusion ​are ​essential ​to the ​growth ​and ​prosperity ​of ​today’s ​companies. When woven ​into ​every ​aspect ​of ​the talent ​life ​cycle, companies committed to diversity and inclusion are ​the ​best ​equipped ​to ​innovate, ​improve ​brand image ​and ​drive ​performance.

Would companies be more diverse if A.I. did the hiring?

The best hiring manager might just be the computer sitting on your desk. AI and ethics expert Joanna Bryson posits that artificial intelligence can go through all the resumes in a stack and find what employers are missing. Most humans, on the other hand, will rely on biases — whether they are aware of them or not — to get them through the selection process. This is sadly why those with European-sounding names get more calls for interviews than others. AI, she says, can change that. Joanna is brought to you today by Amway. Amway believes that ​diversity and inclusion ​are ​essential ​to the ​growth ​and ​prosperity ​of ​today’s ​companies. When woven ​into ​every ​aspect ​of ​the talent ​life ​cycle, companies committed to diversity and inclusion are ​the ​best ​equipped ​to ​innovate, ​improve ​brand image ​and ​drive ​performance.

How equal parental leave can help close the gender pay gap

It's no small secret that America is far behind the rest of the world when it comes to maternal leave. But studies are finding that paternal leave shouldn't be overlooked, either. Lauren Smith Brody, former editor of Glamor magazine and now a full-time author and founder of The Fifth Trimester movement, makes the case here that dads need time off, too, to bond with their newborns, and that modern companies need to understand and appreciate that. Lauren's latest book is The Fifth Trimester: The Working Mom's Guide to Style, Sanity, and Success After Baby. This video is brought to you by Amway. Amway believes that ​diversity and inclusion ​are ​essential ​to the ​growth ​and ​prosperity ​of ​today’s ​companies. When woven ​into ​every ​aspect ​of ​the talent ​life ​cycle, companies committed to diversity and inclusion are ​the ​best ​equipped ​to ​innovate, ​improve ​brand image ​and ​drive ​performance.

Real talk at work: How Amway created a better office for more people

Most people approach talking about difficult subjects as if they were at a debate. That is, arriving at the table (metaphorically speaking) with preconceived notions and ideas. But Amway's VP of Global Litigation and Corporate Law, Claire Groen, knew there had to be a better way. She and the leaders at Amway devised what they call RealTalk, which brings people together to hold conversations on current topics. And when the topics happened to turn into hot-button issues like immigration, the racism at Charlottesville, and so forth, these talks became an incredible conduit to a more inclusive office. People were heard, and in turn listened more to ideas outside of their comfort zone. This resulted in a better and more inclusive culture at Amway. Amway believes that ​diversity and inclusion ​are ​essential ​to the ​growth ​and ​prosperity ​of ​today’s ​companies. When woven ​into ​every ​aspect ​of ​the talent ​life ​cycle, companies committed to diversity and inclusion are ​the ​best ​equipped ​to ​innovate, ​improve ​brand image ​and ​drive ​performance.

Breaking the ice: How astronauts overcome their differences aboard the ISS

Look up—you can see the greatest feat of human cooperation orbiting 254 miles above Earth. As commander of Expedition 35 aboard the International Space Station (ISS), Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield understands the difficulty of cultural barriers in team work, and the life or death necessity of learning to communicate across those divides. The ISS is a joint project between five space agencies, built by people from 15 different nations—and each of them has a different take on what is "normal". Hadfield explains the scale of cultural differences aboard the spaceship: "What do you do on a Friday night? What does "yes" mean? What does "uh-huh" mean? What is the day of worship? When do you celebrate a holiday? How do you treat your spouse or your children? How do you treat each other? What is the hierarchy of command? All of those things seem completely clear to you, but you were raised in a specific culture that is actually shared by no one else." Here, Hadfield explains his strategy for genuine listening and communication. Whether it's money, reputation, or your life that's at stake, being sensitive and aware of people's differences helps you accomplish something together—no matter where you’re from. Amway believes that ​diversity and inclusion ​are ​essential ​to the ​growth ​and ​prosperity ​of ​today’s ​companies. When woven ​into ​every ​aspect ​of ​the talent ​life ​cycle, companies committed to diversity and inclusion are ​the ​best ​equipped ​to ​innovate, ​improve ​brand image ​and ​drive ​performance. Chris Hadfield features in the new docuseries One Strange Rock and is the author of An Astronaut's Guide to Life on Earth: What Going to Space Taught Me About Ingenuity, Determination, and Being Prepared for Anything


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How experiencing discrimination in VR can make you less biased

What would it be like to live in the body of someone else? Since the dawn of mankind, people have imagined what it would be like to inhabit another body, just for a day or even for a few minutes. Thanks to the magic of VR, we can now do that. Jeremy Bailenson, the creator of the Virtual Human Interaction Lab, has designed a VR experience called 1000 Cut Journey that may change the way people see race: by experiencing it firsthand. Jeremy explains to us, "You start out as an elementary school child and you’re in a classroom. You then become a teenager and you’re interacting with police officers. You then become an adult who’s going on a job interview, and what you experience while wearing the body of a black male is implicit bias that happens repeatedly and over time." Jeremy is brought to you today by Amway. Amway believes that diversity and inclusion ​are ​essential ​to the ​growth ​and ​prosperity ​of ​today’s ​companies. When woven ​into ​every ​aspect ​of ​the talent ​life ​cycle, companies committed to diversity and inclusion are ​the ​best ​equipped ​to ​innovate, and ​improve ​brand image ​and ​drive ​performance.

When data drives diversity and inclusion, good things happen

What makes a job a great place to work? A sense of equity and ownership, says Michael Bush, the CEO of the conveniently named Great Place to Work. They're a global consulting and analytics firm that produces the annual Fortune 100 Best Companies to Work For list, the 100 Best Workplaces for Women list, the Best Workplaces for Diversity list, and dozens of other distinguished workplace rankings around the world. Michael's new book is A Great Place to Work for All: Better for Business, Better for People, Better for the World, and he's brought to you today by Amway. Amway believes that ​diversity and inclusion ​are ​essential ​to the ​growth ​and ​prosperity ​of ​today’s ​companies. When woven ​into ​every ​aspect ​of ​the talent ​life ​cycle, companies committed to diversity and inclusion are ​the ​best ​equipped ​to ​innovate, ​improve ​brand image ​and ​drive ​performance.

Neurodiversity: Many mental 'deficits' are really hidden strengths

Color-blindness. Left-handedness. Dyslexia. Autism. These are all different ways in which the brain is rewired differently than the norm. But Heather Heying, evolutionary biologist and former Professor at Evergreen State College, is saying that these so-called differences are really strengths. For example, she relays us a story about her autistic students being far more adept at spotting social dynamics emerging in the classroom, long before non-autistic students. And left-handed people are often way more creative than their righty counterparts. Evolution might suggest that we need these differences to be stronger as a whole. Be sure to follow Heather on twitter: @HeatherEHeying and through her website, heatherheying.com. Heather is brought to you today by Amway. Amway believes that diversity and inclusion are ​essential ​to the ​growth ​and ​prosperity ​of ​today’s ​companies. When woven ​into ​every ​aspect ​of ​the talent ​life ​cycle, companies committed to diversity and inclusion are ​the ​best ​equipped ​to ​innovate, ​improve ​brand image, ​and ​drive ​performance.

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  • The fibula was originally discovered in 1989, though at the time scientists believed the damaged bone had been fractured.
  • After reanalyzing the bone, and comparing it with fibulas from a human and another dinosaur, a team of scientists confirmed that the dinosaur suffered from the bone cancer osteosarcoma.
  • The study shows how modern techniques can help scientists learn about the ancient origins of diseases.

An interdisciplinary team of scientists has confirmed for the first time that dinosaurs suffered from cancer.

The team made the discovery after reanalyzing a 76-million-year-old fibula, or lower leg bone, that belonged to a Centrosaurus apertus, a four-legged dinosaur that was as tall as a human and about 18 feet long. Paleontologists first discovered the fossilized fibula in 1989, in Alberta, Canada. They observed that the bone was damaged, but assumed it was due to a healing fracture.

After seeing the fossil at the Royal Tyrrell Museum of Paleontology in Alberta in 2017, David Evans, the James and Louise Temerty endowed chair of vertebrate paleontology at the Royal Ontario Museum, and his colleagues suspected the damage was caused by a malignant tumor.

"The cancerous bone is severely malformed, with a massive gnarly tumor larger than an apple in the middle of the bone," Evans told Gizmodo. "In fact, the top half of the bone is missing, and it may have broken in life due [to] the progress of the cancer."

Dinosaur fossil

Centrosaurus apertus fibula

Royal Ontario Museum

In the recent study, the team used a combination of techniques to analyze the fibula, including taking CT scans, casting the bone and studying thin slices of it under a microscope. The analysis suggested that the dinosaur likely suffered from osteosarcoma, a type of bone cancer that affects modern humans, typically young adults.

For further evidence, the team compared the damaged fibula to a healthy fibula from a dinosaur of the same species, and also to a fibula that belonged to a 19-year-old human who suffered from osteosarcoma. Both comparisons supported the osteosarcoma diagnosis.

Evans et al.

"The shin bone shows aggressive cancer at an advanced stage," Evans said in a press release. "The cancer would have had crippling effects on the individual and made it very vulnerable to the formidable tyrannosaur predators of the time."

"The fact that this plant-eating dinosaur lived in a large, protective herd may have allowed it to survive longer than it normally would have with such a devastating disease."

The fossilized fibula was originally unearthed in a bonebed alongside the remains of dozens of other Centrosaurus apertus, suggesting the dinosaur didn't die from cancer, but from a flood that swept it away with its herd.

Dinosaur fossil

Dinosaur fibula; the tumor mass is depicted in yellow.

Royal Ontario Museum/McMaster University

The new study highlights how modern techniques can help scientists learn more about the evolutionary origins of modern diseases, like cancer. It also shows that dinosaurs suffered through some of the same terrestrial afflictions humans face today.

"Dinosaurs can seem like mythical creatures, but they were living, breathing animals that suffered through horrible injuries and diseases," Evans said, "and this discovery certainly makes them more real and helps bring them to life in that respect."

UPDATE: Unfortunately, Malcolm Gladwell was not able to make the live stream due to scheduling issues. Fortunately, David Epstein was able to jump in at a moment's notice. We hope you enjoy this great yet unexpected episode of Big Think Live. Our thanks to David and Maria for helping us deliver a show, it is much appreciated.




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In this Big Think Live session, Malcolm Gladwell and host Maria Konnikova will explore the quirks of the human mind, the ins and outs of writing about psychology, and the nature of storytelling through the framework of Gladwell's podcast series Revisionist History and his latest book Talking to Strangers.

Ask your questions for Malcolm Gladwell during the audience Q&A!

Join the stream at 12 pm EDT on Tuesday, August 4.

STREAMING LINKS

Big Think Edge | YouTube | Facebook

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Malcolm Gladwell is the author of five New York Times bestsellers: The Tipping Point, Blink, Outliers, What the Dog Saw, and David and Goliath. His newest book, Talking to Strangers (2019), is a darker-than-usual look at the miscommunications and assumptions that occur when we interact with people we don't know, told through historical case studies like Sandra Bland, Bernie Madoff, and Adolf Hitler. Gladwell is also the co-founder of Pushkin Industries, an audio content company that produces the podcasts Revisionist History, which reconsiders things both overlooked and misunderstood, and Broken Record, where he, Rick Rubin, and Bruce Headlam interview musicians across a wide range of genres. Gladwell has been included in the TIME 100 Most Influential People list and touted as one of Foreign Policy's Top Global Thinkers.

Maria Konnikova is the author of two New York Times bestsellers: The Confidence Game and Mastermind: How to Think Like Sherlock Holmes. Her new book is The Biggest Bluff (June 2020). While researching The Biggest Bluff, journalist Konnikova became an international poker champion and the winner of over $300,000 in tournament earnings—and inadvertently turned into a professional poker player. She is a regular contributing writer for The New Yorker, and her writing has been featured in Best American Science and Nature Writing and has been translated into over twenty languages. Maria also hosts the podcast The Grift from Panoply Media, a show that explores con artists and the lives they ruin, and is currently a visiting fellow at NYU's School of Journalism. She graduated from Harvard University and received her PhD in psychology from Columbia University.



In some versions of the game blackjack, one way to win against the house is for players at the table to work as a team to keep track of and covertly communicate amongst each other the cards they have been dealt.

With that knowledge, they can then estimate the cards still in the deck, and those most likely to be dealt out next, all to help each player decide how to place their bets, and as a team, gain an advantage over the dealer.

This calculating strategy, known as card-counting, was made famous by the MIT Blackjack Team, a group of students from MIT, Harvard University, and Caltech, who for several decades starting in 1979, optimized card-counting and other techniques to successfully beat casinos at blackjack around the world — a story that later inspired the book "Bringing Down the House."

Now researchers at MIT and Caltech have shown that the weird, quantum effects of entanglement could theoretically give blackjack players even more of an edge, albeit a small one, when playing against the house.

In a paper published this week in the journal Physical Review A, the researchers lay out a theoretical scenario in which two players, playing cooperatively against the dealer, can better coordinate their strategies using a quantumly entangled pair of systems. Such systems exist now in the laboratory, although not in forms convenient for any practical use in casinos. In their study, the authors nevertheless explore the theoretical possibilities for how a quantum system might influence outcomes in blackjack.

They found that such quantum communication would give the players a slight advantage compared to classical card-counting strategies, though in limited situations where the number of cards left in the dealer's deck is low.

"It's pretty small in terms of the actual magnitude of the expected quantum advantage," says first author Joseph Lin, a former graduate student at MIT. "But if you imagine the players are extremely rich, and the deck is really low in number, so that every card counts, these small advantages can be big. The exciting result is that there's some advantage to quantum communication, regardless of how small it is."

Lin's MIT co-authors on the paper are professor of physics Joseph Formaggio, associate professor of physics Aram Harrow, and Anand Natarajan of Caltech, who will start at MIT in September as assistant professor of electrical engineering and computer science.

Quantum dealings

Entanglement is a phenomenon described by the rules of quantum mechanics, which states that two physically separate objects can be "entangled," or correlated with each other, in such a way that the correlations between them are stronger than what would be predicted by the classical laws of physics and probability.

In 1964, physicist John Bell proved mathematically that quantum entanglement could exist, and also devised a test — known a Bell test — that scientists have since applied to many scenarios to ascertain if certain spatially remote particles or systems behave according to classical, real-world physics, or whether they may exhibit some quantum, entangled states.

"One motivation for this work was as a concrete realization of the Bell test," says Harrow of the team's new paper. "People wrote the rules of blackjack not thinking of entanglement. But the players are dealt cards, and there are some correlations between the cards they get. So does entanglement work here? The answer to the question was not obvious going into it."

After casually entertaining the idea during a regular poker night with friends, Formaggio decided to explore the possibility of quantum blackjack more formally with his MIT colleagues.

"I was grateful to them for not laughing and closing the door on me when I brought up the idea," Formaggio recalls.

Correlated cards

In blackjack, the dealer deals herself and each player a face-up card that is public to all, and a face-down card. With this information, each player decides whether to "hit," and be dealt another card, or "stand," and stay with the cards they have. The goal after one round is to have a hand with a total that is closer to 21, without going over, than the dealer and the other players at the table.

In their paper, the researchers simulated a simple blackjack setup involving two players, Alice and Bob, playing cooperatively against the dealer. They programmed Alice to consistently bet low, with the main objective of helping Bob, who could hit or stand based on any information he gained from Alice.

The researchers considered how three different scenarios might help the players win over the dealer: a classical card-counting scenario without communication; a best-case scenario in which Alice simply shows Bob her face-down card, demonstrating the best that a team can do in playing against the dealer; and lastly, a quantum entanglement scenario.

In the quantum scenario, the researchers formulated a mathematical model to represent a quantum system, which can be thought of abstractedly as a box with many "buttons," or measurement choices, that is shared between Alice and Bob.

For instance, if Alice's face-down card is a 5, she can push a particular button on the quantum box and use its output to inform her usual choice of whether to hit or stand. Bob, in turn, looks at his face-down card when deciding which button to push on his quantum box, as well as whether to use the box at all. In the cases where Bob uses his quantum box, he can combine its output with his observation of Alice's strategy to decide his own move. This extra information — not exactly the value of Alice's card, but more information than a random guess — can help Bob decide whether to hit or stand.

The researchers ran all three scenarios, with many combinations of cards between each player and the dealer, and with increasing number of cards left in the dealer's deck, to see how often Alice and Bob could win against the dealer.

After running thousands of rounds for each of the three scenarios, they found that the players had a slight advantage over the dealer in the quantum entanglement scenario, compared with the classical card-counting strategy, though only when a handful of cards were left in the dealer's deck.

"As you increase the deck and therefore increase all the possibilities of different cards coming to you, the fact that you know a little bit more through this quantum process actually gets diluted," Formaggio explains.

Nevertheless, Harrow notes that "it was surprising that these problems even matched, that it even made sense to consider entangled strategy in blackjack."

Do these results mean that future blackjack teams might use quantum strategies to their advantage?

"It would require a very large investor, and my guess is, carrying a quantum computer in your backpack will probably tip the house," Formaggio says. "We think casinos are safe right now from this particular threat."

This research was funded, in part, by the National Science Foundation, the Army Research Office, the U.S. Department of Energy, and the MIT Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program (UROP).

Reprinted with permission of MIT News. Read the original article.

  • An orgasm is described as a feeling of intense pleasure that happens during sexual activity.
  • By studying the brain activity of people experiencing orgasms, researchers have been able to pinpoint some of the key changes that occur.
  • These changes include heightened sensitivity to areas of the brain that control how we feel pain, making us less sensitive to it.

An orgasm is described as a feeling of intense pleasure that happens during sexual activity. While some people experience orgasms differently than others, there are some key changes that occur in the mind and body.

By studying the brain activity of people experiencing orgasms, researchers have been able to pinpoint some of these key changes that occur. Using fMRI machines (functional magnetic resonance imaging) or PET scans (positron emission tomography), were able to measure blood flow and neuron activity inside the brain during climax.

What really happens in the brain during orgasm?

3D rendering of hypothalamus lighting up

The hypothalamus, which plays a key role in releasing hormones like dopamine and oxytocin, is one of the regions of the brain that lights up during orgasm.

Image by SciePro on Shutterstock

Does the "logical" part of your brain shut down? That's hotly debated.

There may be a reason why you feel bold and uninhibited during your climax.

"The lateral orbitofrontal cortex becomes less active during sex. This is the part of the brain that is responsible for reason, decision making, and value judgments. The deactivation of this part of the brain is also associated with decreases in fear and anxiety," explains clinical psychologist Daniel Sher.

Recent research suggests otherwise, with results that show that these areas of the brain did not deactivate within the 10 female participants of this study.

Parts of your brain associated with memories, touch, and movement light up.

"Researchers have found that genital sensory cortex, motor areas, hypothalamus, thalamus, and substantia nigra all light up during the big O," explains Kayt Sukel, a cognitive psychologist.

The thalamus, according to Science Alert, helps integrate information about touch, movement, and sexual memories/fantasies. This could explain how you call upon sexual memories and fantasies (or why your imagination is able to be more active) during sexual arousal and peak.

Oxytocin builds up and is released.

Oxytocin is defined as a "bonding" hormone. The forming of oxytocin during sex happens in the pituitary glands and it is then released in the hypothalamus. The hypothalamus plays a key role in many important functions including the releasing of other hormones (like dopamine), regulation of body temperature, controlling of appetite, and of course, the management of sexual behaviors.

A surge of dopamine is released.

During orgasm, your brain works hard to produce various hormones, like the aforementioned oxytocin. In that cocktail of hormones is dopamine, which is released at the moment of orgasm. Dopamine is responsible for feelings of pleasure and desire and therefore acts as a motivation to keep experiencing those feelings of pleasure and desire.

Dopamine is formed in the part of the brain that receives information from several other areas in order to define if your needs (specifically your human needs) are being satisfied.

The release of endorphins, oxytocin, and vasopressin make you less sensitive to pain during sex.

For many, pain and sex go hand in hand. Many people enjoy a little bit of pain during sex, and there is actually a very good reason for this: you're less susceptible to pain during sex. The pituitary gland is activated during sex, which then frees your brain up to release all kinds of endorphins that are able to promote pain reduction.

An interesting thing to note is that some of the same areas of the brain that are active during sex are also active when you experience pain. A very interesting 1985 study looked at the correlation between vaginal stimulation and the elevation of pain.

In people who are unable to feel genital stimulation, the brain may actually be able to "remap" itself.

People who have suffered lower-body paralysis can still achieve orgasm through stimulation of other body parts such as the nipples. In this case, the brain actually creates new pathways to pleasure that doesn't involve our genitalia. This Seattle Times article details paralyzed women who were able to rediscover their ability to orgasm through various other sensations.

Having orgasms can keep your brain healthy.

Because there is a significant increase in blood flow across multiple areas of the brain so dramatically when we achieve orgasm, it's entirely likely that orgasms may have developed in part to keep our brains healthy, according to Kayt Sukel.

What really happens in the body when you orgasm?

woman holding blanket in her hand

What really happens in the body when we orgasm?

Photo by NATNN on Shutterstock

Your body swells and becomes more sensitive.

While men experience the obvious swelling in the genitals due to increased blood flow, women can experience some forms of swelling during sex as well. From your breasts to your vulva, many women experience swelling during sexual arousal and release.

Your heart rate quickens, which leads to euphoria.

Of course, your heart rate elevates when you're experiencing orgasm, but along with that, you also experience a blood pressure rise and your breathing rate also increases. Both of these things are considered mild aerobic activity responses and could factor into the kind of euphoria you feel during sexual experiences - similar to a "runners high."

Muscles in the vagina, anus, and uterus contract and release - like a workout.

Not only is your pulse racing, but you may also be working out some of the muscles in your body (aside from the ones you're using to physically have sex).

According to Bustle, "Increased blood flow to the genitals during orgasm also maintains the integrity of the smooth muscle that lines the vagina, rectum and connective tissue between the penile shaft and scrotum."

Orgasms may improve allergy symptoms or clear blocked nasal passages.

"Orgasms can be effective at opening blocked nasal passages and can alleviate some allergy and congestion symptoms," according to sexologist and clinical professional counselor Dr. Laura Deitsch.

  • A skeleton representing a man who was tossed face down into a ditch nearly 2,500 years ago with his hands bound in front of his hips was dug up during an excavation outside of London.
  • The discovery was made during a high speed rail project that has been a bonanza for archaeology, as the area is home to more than 60 ancient sites along the planned route.
  • An ornate grave of a high status individual from the Roman period and an ancient ceremonial circle were also discovered during the excavations.

An ancient skeleton of a man dating back to the Iron Age was uncovered outside of London last month, and though archaeologists aren't certain what the cause of death was, clues point to a murder most foul.

Foul Play?

A skeleton representing a man who was tossed face down into a ditch nearly 2,500 years ago with his hands bound in front of his hips was dug up during a high speed rail excavation.

The positioning of the remains have led archaeologists to suspect that the man may have been a victim of an ancient murder or execution. Though any bindings have since decomposed, his hands were positioned together and pinned under his pelvis. There was also no sign of a grave or coffin.

"He seems to have had his hands tied, and he was face-down in the bottom of the ditch," said archaeologist Rachel Wood, who led the excavation. "There are not many ways that you end up that way."

Currently, archaeologists are examining the skeleton to uncover more information about the circumstances of the man's death. Fragments of pottery found in the ditch may offer some clues as to exactly when the man died.

"If he was struck across the head with a heavy object, you could find a mark of that on the back of the skull," Wood said to Live Science. "If he was stabbed, you could find blade marks on the ribs. So we're hoping to find something like that, to tell us how he died."

Other discoveries at Wellwick Farm

The grim discovery was made at Wellwick Farm near Wendover. That is about 15 miles north-west of the outskirts of London, where a tunnel is going to be built as part of a HS2 high-speed rail project due to open between London and several northern cities sometime after 2028. The infrastructure project has been something of a bonanza for archaeology as the area is home to more than 60 ancient sites along the planned route that are now being excavated before construction begins.

The farm sits less than a mile away from the ancient highway Icknield Way that runs along the tops of the Chiltern Hills. The route (now mostly trails) has been used since prehistoric times. Evidence at Wellwick Farm indicates that from the Neolithic to the Medieval eras, humans have occupied the region for more than 4,000 years, making it a rich area for archaeological finds.

Wood and her colleagues found some evidence of an ancient village occupied from the late Bronze Age (more than 3,000 years ago) until the Roman Empire's invasion of southern England about 2,000 years ago. At the site were the remains of animal pens, pits for disposing food, and a roundhouse — a standard British dwelling during the Bronze Age constructed with a circular plan made of stone or wood topped with a conical thatched roof.

Ceremonial burial site

top down view of coffin

A high status burial in a lead-lined coffin dating back to Roman times.

Photo Credit: HS2

While these ancient people moved away from Wellwick Farm before the Romans invaded, a large portion of the area was still used for ritual burials for high-status members of society, Wood told Live Science. The ceremonial burial site included a circular ditch (about 60 feet across) at the center, and was a bit of a distance away from the ditch where the (suspected) murder victim was uncovered. Additionally, archaeologists found an ornately detailed grave near the sacred burial site that dates back to the Roman period, hundreds of years later when the original Bronze Age burial site would have been overgrown.

The newer grave from the Roman period encapsulated an adult skeleton contained in a lead-lined coffin. It's likely that the outer coffin had been made of wood that rotted away. Since it was clearly an ornate burial, the occupant of the grave was probably a person of high status who could afford such a lavish burial. However, according to Wood, no treasures or tokens had been discovered.

Sacred timber circle

An aerial view of the sacred circular monument.

An aerial view of the sacred circular monument.

Photo Credit: HS2

One of the most compelling archaeological discoveries at Wellwick Farm are the indications of a huge ceremonial circle once circumscribed by timber posts lying south of the Bronze Age burial site. Though the wooden posts have rotted away, signs of the post holes remain. It's thought to date from the Neolithic period to 5,000 years ago, according to Wood.

This circle would have had a diameter stretching 210 feet across and consisted of two rings of hundreds of posts. There would have been an entry gap to the south-west. Five posts in the very center of the circle aligned with that same gap, which, according to Wood, appeared to have been in the direction of the rising sun on the day of the midwinter solstice.

Similar Neolithic timber circles have been discovered around Great Britain, such as one near Stonehenge that is considered to date back to around the same time.