Good Old Boys

The face of a 4,000-year-old dog has been brought back to life by a team of researchers and forensic artists.

12/10 Would resurrect 

In 1901, archaeologists found the 4,000-year-old remains of at least 24 dogs in Cuween Hill chambered cairn on Orkney, off the northern coast of Scotland.

Now, a team of scientists at Edinburgh University’s Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies has CT-scanned one of the Cuween Hill canine skulls.

This enabled the researchers to make a 3D print, which was in turn used by forensic artist Amy Thornton to create a realistic model of the dog’s head, building up muscle, skin and hair in the same way she would approach a human head.

The dog is the size of a large collie, and has features reminiscent of a European grey wolf, the Cuween dog has much to tell us, not only about ceremonial practices and the symbolic significance of the dog in Late Neolithic Orkney but also about the appearance of domestic dogs in the third millennium BCE.

The reconstruction was originally created in clay using traditional methods, with a 3D print of the Cuween Hill skull as the base to build the anatomy on to. The completed sculpture was then cast in silicone and finished with the fur coat resembling a European grey wolf, as advised by experts. The resulting model gives us a fascinating glimpse at this ancient animal.

Rats the Size of Dogs

Archaeologists with the Australian National University have discovered fossils of seven different species of giant rats, one of which could grow to be up to 10 times the size of the ones that scurry through New York City’s subways.

The archaeologists found the fossils in East Timor while working on a project examining early human movement in Southeast Asia. These fossils are around 44,000 years old. Evidence suggest that humans, who lived in Timor as much as 46,000 years ago, would hunt and eat the mega-rats.

One of the most interesting aspects of the rats is how scientists suspect they died out, and the implications that could have for life today. The reason researchers think they became extinct about 1,000 years ago is because that was when metal tools began to be introduced in Timor, people could start to clear forests on a larger scale.

It wasn’t the presence of human hunters using traditional weapons that caused the extinctions of the giant rats. It was actually deforestation and destruction of the habitat. When you consider there are similar things happening now in areas around Papua New Guinea and Indonesia, it’s really important to keep in mind the effects of deforestation could cause many more extinctions.