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2500-Year-Old Human Footprints Discovered at Arizona Construction Site

This past November, archaeologists uncovered dozens of human footprints preserved in the ground of a construction site north of Tucson, Arizona. Radiocarbon dating indicates they were left between 2500 and 3000 years ago, making them the oldest human tracks discovered in the American Southwest.

The discovery was made while archaeologists were inspecting the site of an upcoming road construction project near Interstate 10. Not only were the prints perfectly preserved, but they also clearly depicted the choreography of daily life for some of the region’s earliest farmers. “One of the things in archaeology that we always wish for is a time machine—to go back in time and see what people really did,” Dan Arnit, the archaeologist responsible for the discovery, told Western Digs. “Well, I think I found a time machine. Because the only thing that’s missing here is the person standing in the steps.”

A small irrigation ditch and depressions that might have held plants were also discovered in the 161-square-foot field. The tracks were made by a few adults and at least one child, probably as they tended to their crops. A print from a dog, likely the companion of one of the farmers, was also found inside a human print. Experts say the field itself looks to date to sometime in the Early Agricultural Period, between 2500 BCE and 50 CE, when farms first began appearing in the American Southwest.

Archaeologists attribute the prints' impressive condition to a sudden flood from a nearby creek. Soon after the tracks were left, the overflowing creek covered them in a mica-rich sandy sediment that would keep them preserved for millennia to follow. Researchers are currently working to salvage some of the prints and document the rest as best they can, as the site will soon be paved over.

Fields and human footprints dating back 2,500 years have been discovered during road construction near Tucson, Arizona....

Posted by Archaeology Magazine on Monday, January 25, 2016

[h/t: Western Digs]

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Food
Thanks to a Wet Winter, New Zealand Faces a Potential Potato Chip Shortage
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New Zealand has plenty of unique and tasty snacks, but kiwis also love potato chips. The universal comfort food is in danger Down Under, however, as an unusually wet winter has devastated the island country’s tuber crops, according to BBC News.

Twenty percent of New Zealand’s annual potato crop was wiped out from a series of major storms and floods that ravaged the nation’s North and South Islands, The Guardian reports. In some regions, up to 30 percent of potato crops were affected, with the varieties used to make chips bearing the brunt of the damage.

Potato prices spiked as farmers struggled, but the crisis—now dubbed “chipocalypse” by media outlets—didn't really make the mainstream news until supermarket chain Pak’nSave posted announcements in potato chip aisles that warned customers of a salty snack shortage until the New Year.

Pak’nSave has since rescinded this explanation, claiming instead that they made an ordering error. However, other supermarket chains say they’re working directly with potato chip suppliers to avoid any potential shortfalls, and are aware that supplies might be limited for the foreseeable future.

New Zealand’s potato farming crisis extends far beyond the snack bars at rugby matches and vending machines. Last year’s potato crops either rotted or remained un-harvested, and the ground is still too wet to plant new ones. This hurts New Zealand’s economy: The nation is the world’s ninth-largest exporter of potatoes.

Plus, potatoes “are a food staple, and this is becoming a food security issue as the effects of climate change take their toll on our potato crop,” says Chris Claridge, the chief executive of industry group Potatoes New Zealand, according to The Guardian.

In the meantime, New Zealanders are preparing to hunker down for a few long months of potential potato peril—and according to some social media users, kale chips are not a suitable alternative. “Chipocalypse” indeed.

[h/t BBC News]

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Weird
See (Probably) the World's Heaviest Squash in All Its Glory
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A Rhode Island man has likely set a world record for growing the world’s heaviest squash, the Associated Press reports.

Joe Jutras stole the show with his giant squash at last weekend’s Southern New England Giant Pumpkin Growers Pumpkin Weigh-off. It tipped the scales at 2118 pounds, shattering grower Scott Holub’s 2016 record of 837 pounds.

Jutras, a retired cabinet maker from Scituate, Rhode Island, has spent the last 20 years or so growing giant foods, according to NPR. In 2006, he scored a Guinness Record for producing the world's longest gourd (127 inches), and in 2007 he grew a record-breaking pumpkin that weighed 1689 pounds. These titles are no longer in the book, but Jutras is still the only person who’s ever set world records in the pumpkin, gourd, and squash categories, making him a celebrity of sorts among growers.

Jutras says he’s finally seeing the (literal) fruits of his labor, after trying for years to hit this elusive trifecta. A few years ago he was on track with another giant squash, but it split before weigh-in time. This time around, Jutras used a seed from last year’s world-record holding squash and nurtured it to greatness using new and improved farming techniques.

Guinness still hasn’t confirmed Jutras’s giant squash as the world’s largest, but he’s confident that it will reign supreme. As for the hefty fruit itself, it’s going on display at the New York Botanical Garden, where it will be carved for a Halloween display.

[h/t Associated Press]

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