World News in Brief

Domesticating dogs

A study published in Scientific Reports ( s41598-020-78214-4) has proposed a new theory in the complex debate surrounding the way in which dogs came to be domesticated by early humans. It suggests that the process may have centred around human abilities to digest protein. Humans are naturally omnivorous, but our livers are only able to metabolise a certain amount of protein: too much can be fatal. The game hunted by people living in the harsh conditions of late Pleistocene Arctic and sub-Arctic Eurasia would have been extremely lean, containing much more protein than humans could safely digest. This excess meat could have been fed to canines, who would have been able to live comfortably on the lean meat that humans could not consume, and this may have been the key to the development of a cooperative relationship between two species who would otherwise have been in competition for resources.

ENIGMA discovered

A German Enigma machine, used by the Nazis to send coded messages during the Second World War, has been found by divers on the bed of the Baltic Sea in the Bay of Gelting, north-east Germany. At first sight, it was thought to be an old typewriter, but was soon recognised as being of much greater historical significance. The machine has four rotors and is therefore believed to have come from a U-boat at the end of the war, as four-rotor machines came into use in German submarines from 1942. The machine is currently undergoing thorough restoration at the state archaeological museum in Schleswig, where it will be placed on display. In recent weeks, at least five more Enigma machines have been found at the bottom of the Schlei waterway. They have been reported to the State Archaeology Department of Schleswig-Holstein.

Florian Huber/Submaris German Enigma Machine

Sarcophagi found at safari

Two stone sarcophagi have been found during construction work at Safari Ramat Gan in Israel. Workers at the wildlife park suggest that they were originally found years ago and moved to a different area of the site, where they were forgotten and became buried under sand and vegetation. The coffins, which are around 1,800 years old, are decorated with flower garlands and symbolic discs intended to protect the soul on its journey to the afterlife. The sarcophagi are made of local stone and imitate the prestigious sarcophagi made of Proconnesian marble from the Turkish island of Marmara. Their decoration and the stone used indicate that they were intended for people of high status, while their identical designs suggest that they may have belonged to a husband and wife, or members of the same family.