Skip to comments.Dwarf hippo fossils found on Cyprus
Posted on 12/05/2007 4:35:23 PM PST by NormsRevenge
AYIA NAPA, Cyprus - An abattoir used by early Cypriots, a place where animals went to die, or a shelter that ultimately proved a death trap?
Cypriot and Greek scientists are studying a collapsed cave filled with the fossilized remains of extinct dwarf hippopotamuses descendants of hippos believed to have reached the island a quarter-million years ago.
Paleontologists have unearthed an estimated 80 dwarf hippos in recent digs at the site just outside the resort of Ayia Napa on the island's southeastern coast. Hundreds more may lie beneath an exposed layer of jumbled fossils.
Scientists hope the fossil haul, tentatively dated to 9,000-11,500 B.C., could offer clues to when humans first set foot on this Mediterranean island.
"It's about our origins," said Ioannis Panayides, the Cyprus Geological Survey Department official in charge of the excavations in conjunction with the University of Athens. "Knowledge of our geological history makes us more knowledgeable about ourselves."
Until the Ayia Napa discovery, the earliest trace of humans on Cyprus dated to 8,000 B.C. But signs of human activity at the new dig could turn back the clock on the first Cypriots by as much as 3,500 years.
"That's very significant, but we can't be certain yet. The task of examining is laborious and time consuming," said University of Athens Professor George Theodorou, who is tasked with examining some 1.5 tons of fossils.
The dwarf hippopotamuses were herbivores, like their modern cousins, but were only about 2 1/2 feet tall and 4 feet long. Unlike modern hippos, whose upturned nostrils seem designed for swimming, Cypriot hippos had low-slung nostrils better suited to foraging on land.
Panayides said the fossils show the Cypriot hippos had legs and feet adapted to land, enabling them to stand on their hind legs to reach tree branches.
Experts believe hippos arrived on Cyprus between 100,000 to 250,000 ago, and likely got smaller to adapt to the hilly island landscape. But scientists do not know how the animals reached Cyprus, which has never been physically linked to another land mass.
Panayides said paleontologists theorize hippos may have swum or floated here during a Pleistocene ice age from land that is now Turkey or Syria. They may have clung to tree trunks and other debris during the crossing.
Lower sea levels at the time made Cyprus much larger than its present 3,570 square miles, meaning it was much closer to other lands. By some estimates, what is now Syria was a mere 18 miles away.
Digs over the last century uncovered smaller numbers of dwarf hippo fossils at 40 locations across Cyprus. One cave found 20 years ago had evidence of fire, stone tools and scorched bones indicating dwarf hippos were hunted by humans.
Carbon dating on those hippo fossils showed the site dated to 8,000 B.C. Evidence of human activity at Ayia Napa means the island may have been settled by humans as much as 3,500 years earlier.
A human footprint at the Ayia Napa site could bolster the theory that the island's earliest inhabitants could have driven the dwarf hippos to extinction through hunting, said Panayides.
"If these new bones are found to be older than bones previously discovered and scientists can find an association with humans, then the discovery has the potential to tell us more about the island's first human inhabitants," said Eleanor Weston, a paleontologist at London's Natural History Museum who was not connected with the Ayia Napa discovery.
Panayides said indications that hippo bones at Ayia Napa had been crushed as if trampled by other hippos, suggesting successive generations came to the cave. Shelter is the most likely explanation, but Panayides didn't rule out the possibility the hippos returned to an ancient burial ground to die.
The fossilized remains of dozens of dwarf hippopotamuses lying in an excavated cave outside the resort village of Ayia Napa, some 80km (40 miles) southeast of the capital Nicosia, Cyprus, Wednesday, Nov. 28, 2007. A collapsed cave believed to contain the fossilized remains of dozens of dwarf hippopotamuses that are believed to have swum to this east Mediterranean island as many as 250,000 years ago. The fossils date to 9,000-11,500 BC and could provide clues as to when the island was actually inhabited by humans. (AP Photo/Petros Karadjias)
Hey, do you think Santa would bring me one as a pet for Christmas?
Well, I hope that they don't hunt them to extinction. I'll just wait to see how this all works out.
Thanks NormsRevenge. If you can solve this mystery, you'll have a hip up on top of the whole lot of us.
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It has been completely dried out over forty times. The last time was five million years ago though.
I’m pretty sure that what you did in your post is punishable in most jurisdictions as a crime against humanity.
Ima gonna tell on you.
Lyell (remember him?) gave the following explanation for the presence of the hippototamus in Europe:
"The geologist may freely speculate on the time when herds of hippopotami issued from North African rivers, such as the Nile, and swam northward in summer along the coasts of the Mediteranean, or even occasionally visited islands near the shore. Here and there they may have landed to graze or browse, tarrying awhile, and afterwards continuing their course northward. Others may have swum in a few summer days from rivers in the south of Spain or France to the Somme, Thames, or Severn, making timely retreat to the south before snow and ice set in."
:’D Yeah, because hippos are known to prefer floating in open seas aboard slippery logs. Geez. :’D
The pygmy hippo is a solitary animal that lives among dense vegetation along streams and swamps and in the rainforests of West Africa.
The pygmy hippo was unknown to western scientists until the mid-nineteenth century. The pygmy hippo loses water through its skin so quickly that it must live in a damp,shady habitat.
Buckland wrote (quote) the presence of tropical animals in northern Europe cannot be solved by supposing them to migrate periodically...for in the case of crocodiles and tortoises extensive emigration is almost impossible, and not less so with an unwieldly animal as the hippopotamus when out of the water...it is equally difficult to imagine that they could have passed their winters in lakes and rivers frozen up with ice.
Referring to Kirkdale Cave in Yorkshire and a site at Brentford near London where the bones of hippopotamus, reindeer, grizzly bear, musk sheep, cave lion and hyena were found together with worked flint...and the remains of reindeer, mammoth and rhinoceros in the cave of Breugue in France...Buckland wrote:
From the limited quantity of postdiluvian stalactite, as well as from the undecayed condition of the bones, one must deduce that the time elapsed since the introduction of the diluvial mud has not been of excessive length. The bones were not yet fossilized.
How do we know they were dwarves?
Why are modern hippos not giants?
Hmmm. About the same time Atlantis sank. Coincidence?
The pygmy hippo is an herbivore; it feeds only on plant material. It uproots swamp plants and eats them whole. The hippo also crushes hard fruit with its strong teeth and strips leaves from shrubs and young trees. It sometimes reaches higher branches by standing on its hind legs and leaning on the tree trunk with its front legs.
Height: 2 1/3-3ft.
Length: Head and body,5-6ft.tall, 6in.
Aren’t the baby hippos just the cutest “little” things *-?
Maybe they were taken to the island as pets. ;’) They’re so darned cute. Other than their disposition of course. More people die in hippo attacks each year than from crocodile attacks.
from 8000 years ago (and my apologies, I thought I had a file about this on the drive):
Cyprus at a Glance | June 26, 2001 | staff
Posted on 12/25/2004 10:20:25 PM EST by SunkenCiv
Reconstruction of the Early Neolithic settlement of Khirokitia in Cyprus showing domed houses, corridors, workshops and main road leading through the settlement.
The end of the culture is as mysterious as its beginning - Khirokitia and other sites were deserted and only at Troulli on the north coast is the next stage represented stratigraphically on top of the earlier remains. This phase (Neolithic 1 B) is characterised by the first pottery, painted in red on cream, highly burnished and probably closely related to the Hacilar 1 ware (c. 5 2 5 0-5 000 B C) of south- western Anatolia, whence the newcomers may have come...
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