These Massive Tunnels Were Dug By Giant Sloths

Across northern South America, there are hundreds of colossal tunnels large enough for humans to walk through, but they weren’t dug by men. Nor they were formed by any known geological process. But their creators have left evidence all around the walls and ceilings—giant claw marks.

Geologists call these tunnels “paleoburrow,” and they are believed to have been dug by an extinct species of giant ground sloth.

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A large paleoburrow in Brazil. Photo credit: Heinrich Frank

The term was coined by Heinrich Frank, a professor at the Federal University of Rio Grande do Sul, in Brazil, who chanced upon one at a construction site in the town of Novo Hamburgo, in the early 2000s. Up until then, little was known or written about these tunnels in scientific literature. But since he came upon his first, Heinrich Frank and other researchers have discovered more than 1,500 tunnels, in the state of Rio Grande do Sul alone. Some of these burrows measure hundreds of feet long and branched off into several direction.

The largest one measured 2,000 feet long, six feet tall and three to five feet wide. An estimated 4,000 metric tons of dirt and rock were dug out of the hillside to create the burrow. It was evidently the work of not one or two individuals but several generations.

Frank believes the burrows were dug by a genus of giant ground sloths, as large as modern elephants, that once lived in South America until about 10,000 years ago. They were some of the biggest land mammals on earth exceeded in size only by the mammoth. Others believe that extinct armadillos, which were smaller than the giant sloths, were responsible for the burrows.

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Claw marks on the sides of the burrow. Photo credit: Heinrich Frank

Regardless of who dug them, the sheer size of the burrows is something that Frank and his colleagues are still trying to explain.

The paleoburrows also have a strange geographic distribution. They have been found only in the southern Brazilian states of Rio Grande do Sul and Santa Catarina. Very few have been found in northern Brazil, or in other South American countries. Even in North America, where the giant ground sloths and giant armadillos once lived, no paleoburrows have been found.

Greg McDonald, a paleontologist from the Bureau of Land Management, however, believes that it’s just a matter of time before we find them.

“The fact that we don’t have them here could simply be that we’ve overlooked them,” he says.

There are still a lot of unanswered questions surrounding the paleoburrows and its creators. Who built them? Why they were built? How they were built, and when?

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Inside the first paleoburrow discovered in the Amazon. It’s nearly twice as large as the second-largest known burrow, located elsewhere in Brazil. Photo Credit: Amilcar Adamy/CPRM

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A closer look at those claw marks. Photo credit: Heinrich Frank

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Outside the entrance to a paleoburrow. Photo credit: Heinrich Frank

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Megatherium americanum, the giant sloth.

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Megatherium americanum (Giant Ground Sloth) is one of the largest land mammals known to have existed, weighing up to 4 t (4,000 kg; 4.4 short tons; 8,800 lb; 630 st) and measuring up to 6 m (20 ft) in length from head to tail. It is the largest-known ground sloth, almost as big as modern african elephants, and would have only been exceeded in its time by a few species of mammoth. Megatherium species were members of the abundant Pleistocene megafauna, large mammals that lived during the Pleistocene epoch.

Gigantic Gorilla

Gigantopithecus blacki (Greek and Latin for “Black’s giant ape”) is an extinct species of ape.

The only known fossils of G. blacki, or “Giganto,” are a few teeth and mandibles found in cave sites in Southeast Asia. As the name suggests, these are appreciably larger than those of living gorillas, but the exact size and structure of the rest of the body can only be estimated in the absence of additional findings. Recent research using high-precision absolute-dating methods has shown that after existing for about a million years, G. blacki died out as recently as 100,000 years ago. This means that it coexisted with (anatomically) modern humans (Homo sapiens) for a few dozen thousands of years, and with the most immediate ancestors of H. sapiens before that.

Based on the fossil evidence, paleontologists speculate that Gigantopithecus had an adult standing height of over three meters (ten feet) and a weight of 550 kg (1200 lb), and was thus much larger and heavier than current-day gorillas.

The species lived in Asia and probably inhabited bamboo forests, since its fossils are often found alongside those of extinct ancestors of the panda. Most evidence points to Gigantopithecus being a plant-eater. Some believe that being a plant-eating species, G. blacki was placed at the losing end of the evolutionary competition with humans.

The species’ method of locomotion is uncertain, as no pelvic or leg bones have been found. The dominant view is that it walked on all fours like modern gorillas and chimpanzees. However, a minority opinion favors bipedal locomotion, most notably as championed by the late Grover Krantz. It should be noted that this assumption is based only on the very few jawbone remains found, all of which are U-shaped and widen towards the rear. This widening, in Krantz’s view, allowed room for the windpipe to be positioned within the jaw, allowing the skull to sit squarely upon a fully-erect spine like modern humans, rather than roughly behind it, like the great apes.

Krantz’s studies of Bigfoot, which he called “Sasquatch,” (an Anglicization of the Halkomelem word sásq’ets meaning “wild man”)  led him to believe that this was an actual creature. He theorized that sightings were due to small pockets of surviving gigantopithecines, with the progenitor population having migrated across the Bering land bridge, which was later used by humans to enter North America. (Gigantopithecus lived alongside humans but is thought to have gone extinct 300,000 years ago in eastern Asia).

Dr. Grover Krantz was the most vocal supporter of the theory that Gigantopithecus blacki traversed the ice bridge from Asia to North America and exists today as the creature known as bigfoot.

After seeing footage stills of the Patterson-Gimlin film which appeared on the February 1968 cover of Argosy, Krantz was skeptical, believing the film to be an elaborate hoax, saying “it looked to me like someone wearing a gorilla suit”  and “I gave Sasquatch only a 10 percent chance of being real.”  After years of skepticism, Krantz finally became convinced of Bigfoot’s existence after analyzing the “Cripplefoot” plaster casts gathered at  Bossburg, Washington in December 1969. Krantz later studied the Patterson-Gimlin film in full, and after taking notice of the creature’s peculiar gait and purported anatomical features, such as flexing leg muscles, he changed his mind and became an advocate of its authenticity.  While in Bossburg, he also met John Willison Green and the two remained friends until Krantz’s death.

The Cripplefoot tracks, left in snow, purportedly showed microscopic dermal ridges (fingerprints) and injuries tentatively identified as clubfoot by primatologist John Napier.  Krantz asked Dutch professor A.G. de Wilde of the University of Groningen to examine the prints, who concluded that they were “not from some dead object with ridges in it, but come from a living object able to spread its toes.”  Krantz also attempted to have both the FBI and Scotland Yard study the dermal ridge patterns, and was told by renowned fingerprint expert John Berry, an editor of the journal Fingerprint Whorld, that Scotland Yard had concluded the prints were “probably real.” To his disappointment, a subsequent 1983 article in the journal Cryptozoology, titled “Anatomy and Dermatoglyphics of Three Sasquatch Footprints,”  was largely ignored.

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These Peruvian Pyramids Are Just As Old As Egypt’s Pyramids

The lost city of Caral boasts pyramids just as old as those in Egypt and is the oldest city in the New World.

Relatively speaking, the Incas are recent history. One unfortunate consequence of the fame of the Incas is that they tend to crowd out the long and rich history of the region with its many kingdoms and civilizations that went before. Some pre-Inca cultures were incorporated into the Inca Empire, while others were ancient history by the time the Incas appeared on the scene.

The oldest city now known in the Americas is that of Caral. It flourished at around the same time as the Egyptian pyramids were being built. The ruins of ‘Sacred City of Caral-Supe’ or simply ‘Caral,’ is a reminder of just how old the history of what is today Peru really is. Another ancient pre-Inca city in the Peruvian desert to explore is Chan Chan. Peru is a country with a very rich history.

Caral – The America’s Oldest City

Caral is considered both the oldest (known) city in the Americas and one of the oldest in the whole world. It history stretches back around 5000 years rivaling the age of Ancient Egypt and its pyramids. No other site in the Americas has been found with Caral’s diversity of monumental buildings and ceremonial and administrative functions.

  • Location: Peru In The Supe Valley By The Coast
  • Oldest: Believed To Be The Oldest City In The Americas’ (and One Of The Oldest In The World)

The city of Caral was part of the ancient Caral culture. It is believed to have developed between 3000 and 1800 BC and is considered the oldest of the pre-Hispanic civilizations.

Caral Culture: Developed Between 3000 and 1800 BC

To put that into context, that is much older than the civilizations of Mesoamerica. The Olmec civilization is considered a progenitor to the complex civilizations of Mesoamerica (the Olmecs were responsible for the “colossal heads” and the first use of chocolate). But the Caral Culture is believed to have developed around 1,500 years earlier than the Olmec culture.

As is understood now, Caral could be thought of as the cradle of Andean civilization – and eventually the Incas. It appears that Caral was the model urban design that was subsequently adopted by Andean civilizations over the following four millennia.

Pyramids As Old As Egypt And More

Exceptionally well-preserved, the site is impressive in terms of its design and the complexity of its architectural, especially its monumental stone and earthen platform mounts and sunken circular courts. UNESCO

As one visits Caral today, one will see a windswept desert with what appears to be six dunelike mounds. But these are not works of nature, they are human-made pyramids. They are what remains of a city that once flourished there almost 5,000 years ago.

  • Size: The Site Covers 626 hectares
  • Contains: Pyramids, Plazas, and Residential Buildings
  • Pyramids: The Site Has The Remains of Six Main Pyramids
  • Listed: As A World Heritage Site

Closely associated with the city of Caral was the early fishing city of Áspero or El Áspero situated on on the west coast of Peru, near the mouth of the Supe River. Here excavations have found the remains of human sacrifices (two children and a newborn). It also has large platform mounds.

The Supe Valley has fertile lands and is close to the sea. The ancient inhabitants were fishermen, farmers, and seafarers.

The city is believed to have been the home of over 3,000 inhabitants and is now the best studied and one of the largest Norte Chico sites known.

Caral is today an important archeological site with the remains of what was the main city of the Caral civilization. It is located in present-day Peru in the Supe Valley near the town of Caral – around 180 km or 110 miles north of Lima.

Caral was inhabited between approximately 26th century BC and 20th century BC, and the site includes an area of more than 60 hectares (150 acres). Caral has been described by its excavators as the oldest urban center in the Americas, a claim that was later challenged as other ancient sites were found nearby, such as Bandurria, Peru. Accommodating more than 3,000 inhabitants, it is the best studied and one of the largest Norte Chico sites known.

The city was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2009. In early 2021, tensions arose between squatters claiming land rights and archaeologists researching the site as housing construction encroached on the site.

Shady’s findings suggest it was a gentle society, built on commerce and pleasure. No indications of warfare, such as battlements, weapons, or mutilated bodies, have been found at Caral. This contrasts with the older civilisation of Sechin Bajo where depictions of weapons are found. In one of the temples, they uncovered 32 flutes made of condor and pelican bones and 37 cornetts of deer and llama bones. One find revealed the remains of a baby, wrapped and buried with a necklace made of stone beads.

Boy, six, finds giant megalodon shark tooth on Bawdsey beach

Sammy Shelton
Image caption,Sammy Shelton found the giant tooth on a Suffolk beach

A six-year-old boy has found a shark tooth belonging to a giant prehistoric megalodon that could be up to 20 million years old.

Sammy Shelton found the 10cm-long (4in) tooth on Bawdsey beach in Suffolk during a bank holiday break.

It has been confirmed as belonging to a megalodon – the largest shark that ever existed – by expert Prof Ben Garrod.

His dad Peter Shelton said Sammy was sleeping with it near his bed as he was “very attached to it”.

The pair, from Bradwell near Gorleston-on-Sea in Norfolk, were searching for fossils when they came across the giant shark’s tooth, as first reported in the Great Yarmouth Mercury.

“Sammy was very excited as we’d seen fragments of shark teeth on the beach, but nothing as big and heavy as this,” Mr Shelton said.

Artist's impression of a megalodon
Image caption,Megalodon was a giant and dwarfed all other sea creatures
Sammy Shelton holding a shark's tooth on a beach
Image caption,Sammy found the tooth on the beach beneath Bawdsey’s eroding sandy cliffs while on holiday on 30 May

Photographs of the find were sent to Prof Garrod, a broadcaster and evolutionary biologist at the University of East Anglia in Norwich.

“It belonged to a megalodon, the largest ever shark – and its teeth are not often found around the UK coastline,” he said.

“Maybe just a handful a year, but this is a particularly good example, in really good condition, whereas they are usually quite worn when found.”

Megalodon was a maximum of 16 - 18 metres long, great white sharks are 5 metres and humans about 1.75 metres

The megalodon could grow up to 18m (60ft) in length, scientists estimate, and weigh up to 60 tonnes, he said.

Dwarfing anything else swimming in the waters at the time, these were “specialist whale eaters – they were ambush hunters,” Prof Garrod said.

Shark's tooth in a hand
Image caption,The tooth was said to be in very good condition

The megalodon dominated all the seas around the world other than those parts of the oceans surrounding Antarctica.

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The megalodon

  • The cartilaginous fish (whose skeleton is made of cartilage rather than bone) was a carnivore and had no known predators
  • It could eat anything it liked, but its favourite food was whales, although seals would also have been on the menu
  • Most of this shark’s hunting was in the open sea (juveniles lived closer to shore) and it attacked its prey near the surface, when it came up for air
  • Megalodon could swim at high speed in short bursts so tended to rush its prey from beneath
  • It would first aim to disable its prey by injuring a flipper or the tail, then once unable to swim properly, the victim would be easy to finish off
  • Lived from about 20 million years ago, long after the dinosaurs became extinct 65 million years ago

Source: BBC Science

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The name means “big tooth” and the giants were active from about 22 million years ago until about three million years ago when they became extinct.

Sammy’s find was “a really big thing” for the little boy, Prof Garrod said.

“Not many people who look for a megalodon tooth actually find one,” he said.

“I know – I’ve been searching since I was a child and I knew all the beaches around the area – but I still haven’t found my megalodon.”

Shark's tooth next to a ruler
Image caption,The tooth measures about 10cm

Sammy’s excitement has been shared with his friends at school, and he took the tooth to his beaver cubs group, after which he was awarded his explorer badge, his father said.

Sammy described the “massive” tooth as his best-ever find, and said it was just lying there on the sand and pebbles.

BBC

German Teenager Makes Illegal Climb of The Great Pyramid of Giza

A German teenager found himself in hot water with Egyptian authorities after being arrested for climbing the Great Pyramid of Giza. Andrej Ciesielski scaled the legendary monument earlier this month in a daring daylight climb that amazingly only took him about 8 minutes to accomplish. Despite being spotted by police during his ascent, Ciesielski continued to the top of the pyramid to savor the once-in-a-lifetime view and document his incredible feat. Upon returning to ground level, the young man was arrested and could have faced up to three years in jail for the stunt. He was eventually released after agreeing to let authorities delete the footage and photos from his climb. Fortunately, Ciesielski had a way to recover the digital material and is now sharing the evidence of his awesome adventure with the world. 

One slip and it’s going to be a head-over-heels crash that could cause permanent damage.

Here are some photos of Russian adventurers who climbed the pyramid a few years ago.

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After a hard day of pyramid climbing, go to the KFC and indulge in deep fried Goat Stew.  Available only at Egyptian KFC outlets.

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Giant Flying Reptile Pterosaur

Quetzalcoatlus Northropi An Ancient Bird Next To A Human

Image running into this thing. Luckily no humans around when this beast was on the planet.

Quetzalcoatlus is a pterosaur known from the Late Cretaceous period of North America, it was one of the largest known flying animals of all time. Quetzalcoatlus is a member of the family Azhdarchidae, a family of advanced toothless pterosaurs with unusually long, stiffened necks. Its name comes from the Aztec feathered serpent god, Quetzalcoatl, in Nahuatl. The type and only species is Q. northropi.

The first Quetzalcoatlus fossils were discovered in Texas, United States, from the Maastrichtian Javelina Formation at Big Bend National Park (dated to around 68 million years ago in 1971 by Douglas A. Lawson, a geology graduate student from the Jackson School of Geosciences at the University of Texas at Austin. The specimen consisted of a partial wing (in pterosaurs composed of the forearms and elongated fourth finger), from an individual later estimated at over 10 m (33 ft) in wingspan.

When it was first named as a new species in 1975, scientists estimated that the largest Quetzalcoatlus fossils came from an individual with a wingspan as large as 15.9 m (52 ft). Choosing the middle of three extrapolations from the proportions of other pterosaurs gave an estimate of 11 m, 15.5 m, and 21 m, respectively (36 ft, 50.85 ft, 68.9 ft). In 1981, further advanced studies lowered these estimates to 11–12 m (36–39 ft).