CLOSE
Original image
iStock

Researchers May Have Found North America's Second Viking Site

Original image
iStock

Almost five centuries before Christopher Columbus was born in the early 1450s, a ship led by Viking explorer Leif Erikson crossed the Atlantic Ocean. It dropped anchor in present-day Canada, and the sailors built a temporary settlement on the northern tip of Newfoundland, complete with dwellings, a forge, and a carpentry workshop.

The site was abandoned after only a few years. Archaeologists discovered its 1000-year-old ruins in 1960, and called it L'Anse aux Meadows. For decades, it was the only known Norse settlement in North America outside Greenland. Now, National Geographic reports that researchers may have found evidence of a second Viking site in southern Newfoundland—a find that, if verified, could rewrite the timeline of European exploration in the New World.

The potential outpost is in Point Rosee, a remote spot 300 miles south of L’Anse aux Meadows. The area was identified as a potential Viking hotspot by “space archaeologist” Sarah Parcak.

Parcak uses satellite images taken by cameras 400 miles above Earth to find ancient cities, temples and tombs in Egypt. Last November, Parcak was awarded a $1 million TED Prize, which she is using to develop a platform called Global Xplorer. The citizen science initiative teaches individuals to scan satellite images for undiscovered—and potentially important—archaeological finds.

In 2015, Parcak used the same technology to examine the Canadian coastline. Satellite images hinted at potentially human-made shapes lurking underneath vegetation, and Parcak and her team visited one promising site to take a closer look. Magnetometer readings at the site revealed elevated iron levels. Subsequent digs uncovered an ancient fire-cracked stone hearth, scraps of iron, and Viking-style turf walls.

While there isn’t enough definite evidence to state that these finds are remnants of the seafaring Scandinavians, The New York Times reports that radiocarbon tests have dated the relics to the Norse age (late 8th century through the mid 11th century). Also, the site’s relics aren’t characteristic of any other cultures that might have existed in the area, Parcak told The Washington Post. Archaeologists didn't find any flint scraps, pottery shards, or iron nails left behind by later European colonists or indigenous Canadians. Plus, the only other known pre-Columbian iron processing site in North America is L’Anse aux Meadows.

“Either it’s … an entirely new culture that looks exactly like the Norse and we don’t know what it is,” Parcak said to The Washington Post. “Or it’s the westernmost Norse site that’s ever been discovered.”

Nobody knows whether the site was merely an iron smelting site or part of a larger settled community. Experts will continue to excavate and analyze the find, which will be featured in a two-hour PBS documentary called "Vikings Unearthed" airing on April 4. If it’s a true Viking site, Parcak says it might help researchers find additional Norse relics in the area. These discoveries could provide new evidence that these sailors had explored more of North America—and possibly arrived there earlier—than historians had previously thought.

[h/t National Geographic]

Original image
Land Cover CCI, ESA
arrow
Afternoon Map
European Space Agency Releases First High-Res Land Cover Map of Africa
Original image
Land Cover CCI, ESA

This isn’t just any image of Africa. It represents the first of its kind: a high-resolution map of the different types of land cover that are found on the continent, released by The European Space Agency, as Travel + Leisure reports.

Land cover maps depict the different physical materials that cover the Earth, whether that material is vegetation, wetlands, concrete, or sand. They can be used to track the growth of cities, assess flooding, keep tabs on environmental issues like deforestation or desertification, and more.

The newly released land cover map of Africa shows the continent at an extremely detailed resolution. Each pixel represents just 65.6 feet (20 meters) on the ground. It’s designed to help researchers model the extent of climate change across Africa, study biodiversity and natural resources, and see how land use is changing, among other applications.

Developed as part of the Climate Change Initiative (CCI) Land Cover project, the space agency gathered a full year’s worth of data from its Sentinel-2A satellite to create the map. In total, the image is made from 90 terabytes of data—180,000 images—taken between December 2015 and December 2016.

The map is so large and detailed that the space agency created its own online viewer for it. You can dive further into the image here.

And keep watch: A better map might be close at hand. In March, the ESA launched the Sentinal-2B satellite, which it says will make a global map at a 32.8 feet-per-pixel (10 meters) resolution possible.

[h/t Travel + Leisure]

Original image
iStock
arrow
science
Scientists May Have Found the Real Cause of Dyslexia—And a Way to Treat It
Original image
iStock

Dyslexia is often described as trying to read letters as they jump around the page. Because of its connections to reading difficulties and trouble in school, the condition is often blamed on the brain. But according to a new study published in Proceedings of the Royal Society B, the so-called learning disability may actually start in the eyes.

As The Guardian reports, a team of French scientists say they've discovered a key physiological difference between the eyes of those with dyslexia and those without it. Our eyes have tiny light-receptor cells called rods and cones. The center of a region called the fovea is dominated by cones, which are also responsible for color perception.

Just as most of us have a dominant hand, most have a dominant eye too, which has more neural connections to the brain. The study of 60 people, divided evenly between those with dyslexia and those without, found that in the eyes of non-dyslexic people, the arrangement of the cones is asymmetrical: The dominant eye has a round, cone-free hole, while the other eye has an unevenly shaped hole. However, in people with dyslexia, both eyes have the same round hole. So when they're looking at something in front of them, such as a page in a book, their eyes perceive exact mirror images, which end up fighting for visual domination in the brain. This could explain why it's sometimes impossible for a dyslexic person to distinguish a "b" from a "d" or an "E" from a "3".

These results challenge previous research that connects dyslexia to cognitive abilities. In a study published earlier this year, people with the condition were found to have a harder time remembering musical notes, faces, and spoken words. In light of the new findings, it's unclear whether this is at the root of dyslexia or if growing up with vision-related reading difficulties affects brain plasticity.

If dyslexia does come down to some misarranged light-receptors in the eye, diagnosing the disorder could be as simple as giving an eye exam. The explanation could also make it easy to treat without invasive surgery. In the study, the authors describe using an LED lamp that blinks faster than the human eye can perceive to "cancel out" one of the mirror images perceived by dyslexic readers, leaving only one true image. The volunteers who read with it called it a "magic lamp." The researchers hope to further experiment with it to see see if it's a viable treatment option for the millions of people living with dyslexia.

[h/t The Guardian]

SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER
More from mental floss studios