from the world's big
Thanks to modern technology, we can reexamine our assumptions about ancient warriors.
- The 2600-year-old remains of a young Scythian warrior are now known to be female.
- The young warrior appears to have been around 13 years old when she died.
- The findings shed light on the Scythian culture.
Joan of Scythia?<p>The 2600-year-old remains were discovered at Saryg-Bulun in Central Tuva in 1988 when the region was still part of the USSR. Contained in a tightly sealed coffin made of larch trunk, the remains were mummified and well preserved. One report states that <a href="https://siberiantimes.com/science/casestudy/news/ancient-girl-amazon-warrior-no-older-than-13-is-confirmed-by-modern-scientific-techniques/" target="_blank">a wart on the child's face was still evident</a>. The coffin also contained a battle-ax, a quiver with arrows, a headdress, coat, and various bronze ornaments.</p><p>As the young warrior was presumed to be male, the researchers were surprised when they analyzed her genome and discovered the remains belonged to a young woman. Despite how common it is to see the remains of female warriors, this coffin did not contain items typically given to deceased women, such as beads or mirrors. <br> <br> Excavator Marina Kilunovskaya explained this to <a href="https://www.archaeology.org/news/8802-200617-scythian-mummy-genome" target="_blank">Archaeology.org</a>, "This discrepancy in the norms of the funeral rite received an unexpected explanation: firstly, the young man turned out to be a girl, and this young 'Amazon' had not yet reached the age of 14 years." <strong></strong></p><p>The research team will now attempt to get a more accurate dating of the remains and will use CT scans to try and learn precisely how this <a href="https://www.sciencealert.com/new-dna-analysis-reveals-an-ancient-scythian-warrior-was-a-13-year-old-girl" target="_blank">young warrior died</a>. The various artifacts discovered in the coffin will also be analyzed for metal composition and preserved. </p>
Who were the Scythians and why did they have little girls as warriors?<p>The Scythians were the rulers of the Steppes from Ukraine to Xinjiang and the probable inventors of horseback riding. These nomadic warriors also had a reasonably egalitarian society for the ancient world. Many sources agree that cross-dressing was common in their culture, and some go so far as to suggest their <a href="https://books.google.com/books?id=IR6yDwAAQBAJ&pg=PA218&lpg=PA218&dq=Scythians+gender+fluid&source=bl&ots=jNeRBBfbo5&sig=ACfU3U1BcS8vFzFafib6erkEjiUXaOs_qw&hl=en&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwibnrSzm53qAhWbAp0JHbn1CtEQ6AEwDXoECAsQAQ#v=onepage&q=Scythians%20gender%20fluid&f=false" target="_blank">idea of gender was fluid.</a></p><p>Across the steppes, women were trained to be warriors just as men were and could prove fearsome in battle. Skeletal remains proven to be female (about a fifth of all discovered remains) <a href="https://www.nationalgeographic.com/history/magazine/2020/05-06/fierce-amazons-more-than-myth-real/" target="_blank">often show the same battle injuries as males</a>. Burial sites with weapons and all the honors of a warrior are common for both sexes. Just last year, the gravesite of other <a href="https://www.archaeolog.ru/ru/expeditions/expeditions-2019/donskaya-arkheologicheskaya-ekspeditsiya" target="_blank">female warriors were found.</a> </p><p>They were known as a warlike people, and it is thought entire tribes participated in <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iYL5CLJ2prA" target="_blank">battles</a>. It was said that no nation could stand against them without outside help. However, they also made beautiful <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scythian_art" target="_blank">art</a>, had an elaborate <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scythian_religion" target="_blank">religious system,</a> and were known for their <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scythians#Clothing" target="_blank">unique clothing.</a> They had no written language, but descriptions of their culture endure in the writings of their neighbors. </p><p>Even if the Amazons weren't quite real, they were based on an existing culture. As we learn more about how the Scythians lived and died, we're better able to contextualize the stories and myths they appear in. As with all archaeological discoveries, it also allows us to better understand where humanity has been, so we might make a better choice of where we're going. </p>
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Researchers have recently discovered two of the genes that govern this weird-looking salamander's ability to regenerate limbs, eyes, and even its brain.
- All salamanders are gifted at regeneration, but the axolotl takes this capability to the extreme.
- In addition to growing back its limbs, axolotl can grow back organs like their eyes and even their brains.
- Research on how they do this has been slow due to the creature's massive genome, but scientists recently uncovered two genes that play an important role.
A new role for two genes<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMjY0MjM4OS9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY1NDE4Njc4MX0.cZN6_kJHaYyrv7qayxzZxgg1ZXMH1H1N6yzJMzpXSCU/img.jpg?width=980" id="aa02e" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="d0ef452b4b5eff97dd47446aaf94824c" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="An image of two axolotls in the Vancouver Aquarium." />
If your New Year's resolution was to get in shape, signing up for the marathon is a bad way to go about it.
- Marathons gained popularity over the last decade. In 2018, 456,700 Americans completed a marathon, an 11 percent increase in participation from 2008.
- Training for and racing 26.2 miles has been shown to have adverse effects on the heart, such as plaque buildup in the arteries and inflammation.
- Running too much can lead to chronically increased cortisol levels, resulting in weight gain, fatigue, and lower immune function.
Marathons might bad for your heart<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMjUzNDQ4Mi9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYwMDE5MzIzMn0.HluLDTzZ8LKaHtLooAA2FmjEBrqvkmRvGHpYZ_c4QKI/img.jpg?width=1245&coordinates=0%2C340%2C0%2C41&height=700" id="a61df" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="41dbcf4b1006ec5a7abea443b3e61aa7" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
Alberto Salazar, pictured before winning his third New York City Marathon in 1982, later suffered a heart attack at the age of 48.
Photo Source: Wikimedia<p>Some experts are divided over whether or not running the marathon is bad for your cardiac health. But the concern is mostly rooted in fear that discussing the adverse health effects could dissuading people from exercising. To be clear: <a href="https://www.businessinsider.com/health-benefits-of-running-2018-4" target="_blank">Running is good for you</a>. In moderation. However, grinding for hours on end at a moderate pace to prepare for a marathon is probably not the best thing for your heart. <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3119133/" target="_blank">Studies have shown</a> that extreme endurance sports like marathons and Ironmans can have adverse effects on heart health. When your body is burning through sugar and fat to fuel you for long runs, it releases free radicals that can bind with cholesterol. This process can lead to plaque buildup in the arteries and inflammation. Thus, training for a marathon might increase a person's risk of heart disease and lead to heart scarring. A person's chance of going into cardiac arrest even doubles<a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2019/05/31/well/move/does-marathon-running-increase-the-risk-of-cardiac-arrest.html" target="_blank"> by some estimates</a> during a race, likely because of the stress of racing placing an extra strain on someone's heart who was already at risk. A 2010 study found that for less fit runners, a marathon damaged the<a href="https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/10/101025005836.htm" target="_blank"> heart for up to three months</a>. </p>
DNA and muscle damage<p>The free radicals that burn through your system when running too much can also damage your cells in a process known as oxidative stress. In<a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4792989/#!po=76.6667" target="_blank"> a 2016 study</a> on thirty amateur male runners, researchers found that DNA damage correlated positively with running long distances. The increased oxygen intake involved with running marathons, and oxygen supply to tissues that are active during the race and training, result in higher levels of "reactive oxygen species" (ROS). The accumulation of this, in turn, can cause oxidative DNA damage.</p> <p>The repetitive muscle contractions associated with marathon training and racing can also cause<a href="https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/00365510802126844" target="_blank"> muscular damage</a>. Studies have suggested that competitive endurance events result in an increase of creatine kinase and lactate dehydrogenase. These chemical compounds are indicators of the extent of skeletal muscle cell damage. Research has shown that this muscle damage can be caused not only by the full 26 mile race, but also by 10 km races and 13-mile half marathons. </p>
High mileage training boosts cortisol levels<p>Running too much, and a marathon is too much for most of us, can cause a spike in your cortisol levels. The hours of running required for marathon training are perceived by the body as constant stress, which causes the adrenal glands to increase the release of the hormone cortisol. This hormone boosts blood sugar levels to provide the body with energy during times of stress, and puts its digestive and reproductive systems on ice until the stressor has been dealt with. Chronically increased cortisol levels comes with some unpleasant side effects, like weight gain, fatigue, increased risk of illness, and out-of-whack menstrual cycles for women. </p> <p>When it comes to marathons, the danger here is going from a relatively sedentary lifestyle to suddenly putting in a grueling number of miles to train for a 26.2 mile race. This is what freaks your body out and can cause cortisol levels to shoot up. So, if you do insist on training for a marathon, build mileage gradually.</p>
It damages your kidneys<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="b79521d4c8660ff675eef1ccdc916cca"><iframe type="lazy-iframe" data-runner-src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/jdHVOOBHwAw?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span><p><a href="https://health.usnews.com/health-care/articles/2017-03-28/marathon-running-may-cause-short-term-kidney-injury" target="_blank">Back in 2017</a>, researchers at Yale found that an alarming 82 percent of marathon participants suffered from a kidney injury that left them unable to filter waste products from the blood. This is known as stage 1 acute kidney injury. Essentially, it means that kidney cells become damaged by the lack of blood flow to the organs during a race and the <a href="https://www.futurity.org/marathons-acute-kidney-injury-2159552/" target="_blank">loss of fluid volume</a>. It sounds (and can literally be) nauseating, but runners' kidneys typically recover within two days. Yet, it does raise the question of whether completing multiple marathons, and the high mileage training involved, could cause chronic, or even permanent, kidney damage. </p>
All this from a wad of gum?
- Researchers recently uncovered a piece of chewed-on birch pitch in an archaeological dig in Denmark.
- Conducting a genetic analysis of the material left in the birch pitch offered a plethora of insights into the individual who last chewed it.
- The gum-chewer has been dubbed Lola. She lived 5,700 years ago; and she had dark skin, dark hair, and blue eyes.
Insights into ancient peoples<p>The birch pitch was found on the island of Lolland (the inspiration for Lola's name) at a site called Syltholm. "Syltholm is completely unique," said Theis Jensen, who worked on the study for his PhD. "Almost everything is sealed in mud, which means that the preservation of organic remains is absolutely phenomenal.</p><p>"It is the biggest Stone Age site in Denmark and the archaeological finds suggest that the people who occupied the site were heavily exploiting wild resources well into the Neolithic, which is the period when farming and domesticated animals were first introduced into southern Scandinavia."</p><p>Since Lola's genome doesn't show any of the markers associated with the agricultural populations that had begun to appear in this region around her time, she provides evidence for a growing idea that hunter-gatherers persisted alongside agricultural communities in northern Europe longer than previously thought.</p><p>Her genome supports additional theories on <a href="https://www.nationalgeographic.com/history/2019/12/dna-stone-age-chewing-gum-microbiome-story/" target="_blank">northern European peoples</a>. For example, her dark skin bolsters the idea that northern populations only recently acquired their light-skinned adaptation to the low sunlight in the winter months. She was also lactose intolerant, which researchers believe was the norm for most humans prior to the agricultural revolution. Most mammals lose their tolerance for lactose once they've weaned off of their mother's milk, but once humans began keeping cows, goats, and other dairy animals, their tolerance for lactose persisted into adulthood. As a descendent of hunter-gatherers, Lola wouldn't have needed this adaptation.</p>
A hardworking piece of gum<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMjE5MzY2OC9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYwMzAyNjAwNX0.zNXyQ1m4wg_uqMTGaFnNoIfO8vNKpT7e4ZycXVi6Vf8/img.jpg?width=980" id="3c445" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="9ebba2e7da88dc9ac29359af409e37ae" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="Birch pitch" />
A photo of the birch pitch used as chewing gum.
Theis Jensen<p>These findings are encouraging for researchers focusing on ancient peoples from this part of the world. Before this study, ancient genomes were really only ever recovered from human remains, but now, scientists have another tool in their kit. Birch pitch is <a href="https://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2019/12/17/788115779/what-ancient-chewing-gum-can-tell-us-about-life-5-700-years-ago" target="_blank">commonly found</a> in archaeological sites, often with tooth imprints.</p><p>Ancient peoples used and chewed on birch pitch for a variety of reasons. It was commonly heated up to make it pliable, enabling it to be molded as an adhesive or hafting agent before it settled. Chewing the pitch may have kept it pliable as it cooled down. It also contains a natural antiseptic, and so chewing birch pitch may have been a folk medicine for dental issues. And, considering that we chew gum today for no other reason than to pass the time, it may be that ancient peoples chewed pitch for fun. </p><p>Whatever their reasons, chewed and discarded pieces of birch pitch offer us the mind-boggling option of learning what someone several thousands of years ago ate for lunch, or what the color of their hair was, their health, where their ancestors came from, and more. It's an unlikely treasure trove of information to be found in a mere piece of gum.</p>