World’s biggest dinosaur footprints found in north-western Australia

PHOTO Richard Hunter lies next to a 1.7m dinosaur footprint belonging to a sauropod. SUPPLIED: STEVE SALISBURY

Scientists have published details of the world’s biggest dinosaur footprints, found in Western Australia, with the sauropod prints measuring a whopping 1.7 metres.

They top a dinosaur footprint found in the Mongolian desert, reported last year, that measured 106cm.
Key points:

A number of 1.7m-long dinosaur footprints have been found north of Broome

The dinosaur that left the prints was the largest member of the sauropods, which includes dinosaurs such as the brontosaurus

The area was a large river delta 130 million years ago, with dinosaurs crossing wet sandy areas

The scientific description of the 1.7-metre footprints has been published by University of Queensland vertebrate palaeontologist Steve Salisbury, in the Memoir of the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology, after a two- to three-year peer review process.

The footprints were found on the north-western coast of Western Australia, where Dr Salisbury’s research project has revealed the journeys of dinosaurs up and down the coast.

“We’ve got several tracks up in that area that are about 1.7 metres long,” Dr Salisbury said.

“So most people would be able to fit inside tracks that big, and they indicate animals that are probably around 5.3 to 5.5 metres at the hip, which is enormous.”

The dinosaur that left the prints on what is now sandstone rock platforms, on a remote coastline north of Broome, was the largest member of the sauropods, which includes well-known dinosaurs such as the brontosaurus.

“At first it would seem a footprint that size and an animal that big, is it scientifically possible?” Dr Salisbury said.

“These animals did exist. They were out there and we’re seeing evidence of them having existed in the Kimberley 130 million years ago based on these tracks.”

Big prints and lots of them

The 1.7-metre footprints are easily the biggest discovered, and their sheer size meant they were initially overlooked.

“Probably the next biggest footprints are just over a metre,” Dr Salisbury said.

“Some of them are so big we didn’t really notice them for some time because they’re sort of beyond your search image for a dinosaur track.”

More remarkable to scientists is that the world’s biggest footprints are just one type of about 21 different kinds of dinosaur footprints in the area.

“With 21 different types of tracks represented, that makes it the most diverse dinosaur footprint fauna in the world,” Dr Salisbury said.

The area was a large river delta 130 million years ago, with dinosaurs crossing wet sandy areas between surrounding forested areas.

The challenge for palaeontologists will now be interpreting such a wealth of footprints.

“There are huge areas around that coastline where all you can see are dinosaur tracks,” Dr Salisbury said.

“They’ve just been churned up by dinosaurs, the same as what you see around a dam when a lot of cattle and sheep and kangaroos have come in and made a mess of the mud.”

Proposed gas plant led to research

Dr Salisbury started studying dinosaur footprints on the coast north of Broome when the James Price Point area, known as Walmadan to traditional owners, was listed for development into a gas processing facility.

“Dinosaur tracks have been known through that area, probably for thousands of years. They form part of the song cycle,” he said.

“When the area was selected as the site for a liquid natural gas processing precinct, it was assumed there was nothing there.

“This is where we got contacted to come in and have closer look, and it didn’t take long for us to realise that … there was a spectacular dinosaur track fauna preserved there that was at risk.”

The development did not proceed when Woodside Petroleum determined gas processing at the site would not be economically feasible.

The area has also gained National Heritage listing, and Dr Salisbury hopes his work will attract interested people to visit the area and see the world’s biggest dinosaur footprints with Indigenous traditional owners.

“In the future probably the best way for people to see what’s at Walmadan is to do it on country through something like the Lurujarri Heritage trail,” Dr Salisbury said.

“So spend time walking through there, learning the stories and seeing things as they come up during that walk.”

Archaeologists Might Have Found Another Dead Sea Scroll Cave

Archeologists found this piece of parchment rolled up in a jug in a cave on the cliffs west of Qumran. (Casey L. Olson and Oren Gutfeld)

In the late 1940s, teenagers explored a cave hidden in the flanks of jagged hills of Wadi Qumran in the Judean Desert. Inside, they discovered fragments of the original Dead Sea Scrolls—ancient collections of text that contain the oldest-known biblical manuscripts. Since then, archaeologists have found 11 Qumran caves that they have extensively excavated in search of the precious scrolls that date back more than 2,000 years ago. Now, a team of archaeologists from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and Liberty University in Virginia have discovered what they believe to be a 12th cave on the cliffs west of Qumran.

The Hebrew University press release writes that in the first wide-scale survey in the area since 1993, the team unearthed storage jars and lids from the Second Temple period (dating from 530 BC to 70 CE) in the cave that some scholars are already calling number 12. They also found a pair of iron pickaxe heads that they identified as being from the 1950s, suggesting the cave had been looted.

Oren Gutfeld, an archaeologist at Hebrew University who was part of the dig, says he is confident that the newly discovered cave once contained Dead Sea Scrolls. “Although at the end of the day no scroll was found, and instead we ‘only’ found a piece of parchment rolled up in a jug that was being processed for writing, the findings indicate beyond any doubt that the cave contained scrolls that were stolen,” he says in the release.

The Dead Sea Scrolls are first-person accounts of history, and the information they contain is priceless. As Andrew Lawler explained in Smithsonian Magazine: “The Dead Sea Scrolls—comprising more than 800 documents made of animal skin, papyrus and even forged copper—deepened our understanding of the Bible and shed light on the histories of Judaism and Christianity.”

In addition to Biblical text, the scrolls contain hymns, prayers, commentaries, and mystical formulas, Lawler writes. They’re so valuable that a fragment of an original scroll the size of a fingernail can cost up to $1,000,000, the Biblical Museum at Liberty University notes.

The new discovery has Israel Hasson, director-general of the Israel Antiquities Authority, calling for more funding to systematically search all caves in the Judean Desert for artifacts that have yet to be discovered. “We are in a race against time as antiquities thieves steal heritage assets worldwide for financial gain,” he says in the release.

The Tomb of Zechariah facing the old city of Jerusalem is considered to be a great symbol of the Holy City

The Tomb of Zechariah is an ancient monument located in the upper Kidron valley, at the foothills of Mount Olives, facing the old city of Jerusalem. Carved from a single stone, the monument was built in the 1st century CE at the end of the Second Temple Period.

Adjacent to the Tomb of Benei Hezir, the Tomb of Zechariah is considered to be a great symbol of the Holy City.

Tomb of Zechariah. Photo Credit

The Tomb of Zechariah is considered to be a great symbol of the Holy City. Photo Credit

The tomb does not contain a burial chamber and it has several elements with an Egyptian and Greek influence. The upper part of the monument has a pyramid that sits upon a cornice. On the western side, the façade is decorated nicely and on the other sides of the tomb, the work is rough and unfinished.

There are capitals in a Greek style which are decorated with the egg-and-dart decoration and are of the Ionic order. The place where Zechariah is buried is not known, however, there are suggestions that he was buried in the nearby cluster called the tombs of the Prophets.

Photography of the tomb from 1918. Photo Credit

The Tomb dates back to the 1st century CE. Photo Credit

The tomb has elements in Egyptian and Greek styles. Photo Credit

According to the writings of Menahem haHebroni from the 1215 CE, this is the tomb of Zechariah Ben Jehoiada, who according to the Book of Chronicles, had been stoned. He is regarded as one of the Prophets of the Tanakh in Judaism and was the son of the High Priest Jehoiada. At the reign of King Nebuchadnezzar II, Zechariah condemned the people for their rebellion against God and so they turned against him.

By the orders of the King, they stoned him, and he died “in the court of the house of the Lord”. The tomb became a great symbol because of his righteousness and also because it is located in the foothills of the Mount Olives, where the Messiah supposedly took his first steps.

The Murder of Zechariah, painting by William Brassey Hole.

The tomb can be viewed together with the other monuments of the Kidron Valley. Photo Credit

Some scholars claim that it is impossible that the tomb belongs to Zechariah because he lived somewhere between the 7th and 9th century and the tomb is dated from the 1st century. They suggest that the tomb is actually a Jewish funerary monument for the Tomb of Benei Hezir.

Here is another story from us: Built in 520 AD as his own tomb, the Mausoleum of Theoderic is a monument exhibiting Roman art in its purest form

Today, the tomb can be viewed together with the other monuments of the Kidron Valley and those of the Mount of Olives.

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