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Medieval gamblers turned their back on fate and made dice fair

Posted on 19 Jan 2018 in Archaeology, Featured, Journalism

The dice used by gamers and gamblers in northern Europe became much more fair about 600 years ago. What’s more, the pattern on the faces changed, and these trends together might reflect people’s growing awareness that bets were decided by chance, not by the gods – even though probability theory was centuries away. Image: Steve A Johnson

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Venice may be almost 200 years older than anyone thought

Posted on 14 Dec 2017 in Archaeology, Featured, Journalism

Deep beneath the elaborate mosaic floor of Venice’s Saint Mark’s Basilica, archaeologists have discovered two 1300-year-old peach stones. The find may add 180 years to the history of the iconic floating city. Image: Sergey Galyonkin

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Giant tortoises are rare today but once roamed four continents

Posted on 13 Dec 2017 in Evolution, Featured, Journalism

Tortoises evolved into giants on at least seven occasions and on four continents. The finding undermines the long-standing idea that tortoises become enormous only if they are stranded on remote islands. Image: Charles Luk

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How World War Zero wrecked three Bronze Age civilisations

Posted on 13 Dec 2017 in Archaeology, Featured, Journalism

In June, Eberhard Zangger had an experience most archaeologists only dream of: his very own Tutankhamun moment. Just as Howard Carter had done in 1922 when he entered the boy king’s intact tomb, Zangger was exploring a chamber with the potential to revolutionise archaeology. Image: Following Hadrian

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The mass extinction that might never have happened

Posted on 19 Oct 2017 in Earth Science, Featured, Journalism

Should the “big five” really be the “big four”? For decades, we have recognised five devastating mass extinctions that punctuate the last half-billion years of evolution. But now two geologists are controversially arguing that the end-Triassic extinction has no place on that list. Image: Sparkle Motion

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We’ve drawn iconic sail-wearing Dimetrodon wrong for 100 years

Posted on 13 Oct 2017 in Earth Science, Featured, Journalism, Palaeontology

Dimetrodon, one of the most recognisable of the pre-dinosaur predators, is due a makeover. For more than a century, it has been depicted as a sluggish, belly-dragging beast with sprawling legs – but it might actually have held its legs in a more upright position and kept its stomach off the ground as it walked. Image: puuikibeach

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