Spotlight on a knack for prehistory

New details of prehistoric life in the Denisova Cave complex and the discovery of a giant metre-high parrot that roamed NZ feature in the Australian Research Council’s annual showcase of research released last week, highlighting Flinders University’s expertise in unearthing ancient wonders from around the world.

An Australian and Russian collaborative project led by Professor Mike Morley using modern geoarchaeological techniques to realise new insights into life in the Denisova Caves featured on page seven of the ARC’s Making a Difference 2019-2020 publication.

Professor Morley’s team uncovered the remains of large carnivores such as hyenas, bears and wolves which competed with humans in the Siberian caves famous for their fossil discoveries. Through analysing bone fragments and other evidence including charcoal from fires, the researchers found that three ancient humans – Denisovans, Neanderthals, and early Homo sapiens – used this archaeological site for more than 300,000 years.

The research was jointly funded by the ARC and the Russian Foundation for Basic Research.  View the original University news blog or the story in the online version of the ARC publication.

The second project featured in the ARC publication highlighted the discovery of an enormous parrot that once roamed New Zealand, identified by a team led by Associate Professor Trevor Worthy.

With the support of an ARC grant and New Zealand funding, Associate Professor Worthy and colleagues from the University of New South Wales and Canterbury Museum (New Zealand) unearthed the largest known parrot from a fossil deposit in Central Otago.

Together with the appropriately named ‘Heracles inexpectatus‘, the rich deposit includes the remains of many other creatures, among them a giant terrestrial goose and a huge eagle that ruled New Zealand skies after the dinosaurs. The team is continuing to work their way through the ancient treasure chest.

Read about the discovery here in the online version of the ARC showcase, or view the original Flinders University news blog.

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