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End of Year Recap: Archeology News October 2009

From using the fossilized teeth of an ancient bat to investigating trees that have become mummified, the headlines of October 2009 also touched upon the studies involving ancient Roman coins.

Larges Bat Species Found in Europe

Living in the northeastern part of Spain more than 10,000 years ago, Spanish researchers have confirmed the existence of a large bat species dwelling in Europe. Called the Nyctalus lasiopterus, the bat lived during the Late Pleistocene (some 120,000 to 10,000 years ago). An excavation site at Abric Romani (Barcelona) is where researchers have found the Greater Noctule fossils that reveal that the bat had a more distinct presence more than 10,000 years ago than it does in the present. A decrease in vegetation cover is to blame for declining numbers.

While this isn’t the first time the bat has made headlines, it is the first time a description of the fossil record includes details using the teeth of the bat species originating from a fragment of the left jaw. Finding fossilized remains furthers the information concerning the species of bat and helps to concretely identify its presence and places it settled thousands of years ago.

‘Mummified’ Pine Trees Found

It’s ironic that the same pine trees that allowed many details of the past to thrive through their sap have become ‘mummified’ in a way that allows scientists to conduct interesting research. Norwegian scientists have discovered the trees, which have been dead for almost 500 years , showing no signs of decomposition. This is especially intriguing since Norway has a wet climate that causes organic matter to rot at a fast rate.

The find is considered quite rare and exciting, as the environment doesn’t normally allow such conditions to keep the trees intact. When a pine tree dies, lots of resin is secreted, which keeps the microorganisms responsible for decomposition from doing their dirty work. The natural breakdown of the wood is slowed, but is not expected to come to a complete halt for centuries. With one of the leading dendrochronology (the dating of trees) experts in Norway on the case, we should expect a great deal of new information.

Buried Ancient Roman Coins

With the help of a mathematical model to predict population trends in association with ancient coin hoards, a biologist and historian duo have surmised that the population of ancient Rome was smaller than most have originally thought. Extensive studies have touched upon 1st century BC coins found in Italy, which revealed significant details about figures that dominated the era (like Cicero, Caesar, and Virgil). However, some of the basic details, such as how many people lived in the region during the late Roman Republic remained a blur.