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Archaeologists Uncover Disturbing Amount of Plastic Waste at Iron Age Site – Gizmodo

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Godzilla-themed thermos wrapper: One of over 2,000 waste items found at the Castell Henllys site.
Image: H. Mytum et al., 2021/Antiquity

One by one, the archaeologists stumbled upon pieces of junk. Using techniques typically reserved for documenting stone tools and bones, the team recorded such items as plastic spoons, eye glasses, bottle caps, straws, mobile phone batteries, paint can lids, candy wrappers, and plastic wrap. By the time the experiment was over, the archaeologists had uncovered nearly 3,000 items, the vast majority of them made of plastic.

That plastic would be found at the site, a former hillfort in Wales, was not a surprise. In fact, it was expected, but not to this degree.

Since the 1980s, two replica Iron Age roundhouses existed on this spot, matching the ones that once stood at the Castell Henllys Iron Age fort during the late first millennium BCE.

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The two replica roundhouses at Castell Henllys.

The two replica roundhouses at Castell Henllys.
Image: H. Mytum et al., 2021/Antiquity

Most of the visitors who came to the site were children out on field trips, the legacy of which is only now being understood. As the new Antiquity paper shows, plastics have a habit of sticking around—including in heritage sites that existed long before these synthetic materials were invented. It’s yet another sign that we’ve entered into the Anthropocene, a period in which we’re remaking the planet in our image.

The replica roundhouses at Castell Henllys served two different purposes. The first one, named Cookhouse, was set up like an actual Iron Age roundhouse, while the second one, called Earthwatch, was configured like a classroom, where students sat on benches to learn and eat their snacks.

Plastic utensils.

Plastic utensils.
Image: H. Mytum et al., 2021/Antiquity

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Pembrokeshire Coast National Park, which manages the site, recently decided to dismantle the roundhouses due to health and safety concerns. Prior to building new structures, however, archaeologists thought it wise to excavate the site. It would serve as a good opportunity to study decay processes, to determine which human activities result in leftover waste, and how replicated structures might affect the integrity of prehistoric structures located at the same site. Here, the two replica roundhouses were literally built on the same spot as the real ones that existed well over 2,000 years ago. As the authors wrote in their study, “we anticipated that the artefact assemblages and distributions at Castell Henllys could act as valuable tests for correlating accidental discard with activity patterns.”

This turned out to be the case, but the quantity of waste seen at the site exceeded their expectations.

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“We often find a small amount of recent debris when beginning an excavation, or if we find a deliberate dump, but never like this within a heritage or occupation site building,” Harold Mytum, an archaeologist at the University of Liverpool and the first author of the new paper, explained in an email.

Fragments of candy wrappers.

Fragments of candy wrappers.
Image: H. Mytum et al., 2021/Antiquity

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This is not to say the heritage site was managed poorly. The roundhouses were cleaned regularly to maintain the look and feel of a prehistoric Iron Age setting. But as the new research shows, a surprising amount of litter managed to creep its way into the soil, leading to the discovery of so many items. Needless to say, the vast majority of the recovered items were found in Earthwatch, where the students ate their snacks. Most of the items were small and fragmentary in nature, such as torn packages, which explains why not all of the garbage was collected.

Itemized list of items found in the two roundhouses.

Itemized list of items found in the two roundhouses.
Image: H. Mytum et al., 2021/Antiquity

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“Children’s pack-ups [lunch packs] can damage the planet—they contain a lot of plastic and items get dropped and lost,” said Mytum. “Also, candy wrappers are plasticised and are another environmental threat.”

Mobile phone battery and camera eyepiece.

Mobile phone battery and camera eyepiece.
Image: H. Mytum et al., 2021/Antiquity

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Needless to say, the discovery of all this plastic, while certainly a part of the experiment, forced the archaeologists to tweak their approach. The scientists had been recording all the finds, but they had to adjust their resources “to do the evidence justice,” said Mytum. That said, it did not affect the archaeologists’ ability to examine how the buildings had decayed over the decades and to the document the distinct signatures left by our modern civilization.

“Indeed, it revealed how artefacts get incorporated into the flooring and also where they were densest inside the houses,” Mytum explained. “Prehistoric houses have fewer finds, but we can think about how activities leave their traces in the archaeology.”

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Moving forward, Mytum and his colleagues will continue to work with Pembrokeshire Coast National Park to educate the public on these matters and to find more effective ways of keeping these important spaces clean.

But it won’t be easy.

“Even rural, well-managed locations can have a significant build-up of plastics in the soil,” said Mytum. “The Plastic Age—an indicator of the Anthropocene—has indeed come not only to the oceans of the Blue Planet, but also to its soils. Reducing use of plastics is essential—this debris was a by-product of our lifestyles even in a place where any obviously modern materials, such as plastic litter, is cleared away to avoid affecting the heritage visitor experience.”

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To which he added: “If it is this bad here, it is a sign that our lifestyle needs rethinking.”

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First Private Crew Will Visit Space Station. The Price Tag: $55 Million Each – KCCU

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A crew of private astronauts will pay around $55 million each to spend about eight days at the International Space Station next January in what would be a new step for joint private-public space missions. Axiom Space, a Houston company, says the trip will be led by former NASA astronaut and space station commander Michael López-Alegría.

The proposed Ax-1 mission will use a SpaceX rocket to put three paying customers — American Larry Connor, Canadian Mark Pathy and Israeli Eytan Stibbe – into low-Earth orbit on the space station. All of the trio are wealthy entrepreneurs and investors. The group will be under the command of López-Alegría, who is now an executive at Axiom.

It would be the first time an entirely private mission sends astronauts to the International Space Station. Russia sold the first ride to the station to a private citizen, American businessman Dennis Tito, in 2001.

All of the private astronauts for the upcoming mission are far older than the average NASA astronaut’s age of 34. The space agency does not have age restrictions for astronaut candidates, who generally range from 26 to 46 years old. At 70, Connor is surpassed in age only by John Glenn, who flew on the space shuttle when he was 77.

Under NASA’s rules for private astronaut missions, Axiom must ensure its astronauts meet the space agency’s medical standards. They must also undergo training and certification procedures required for crew members of the International Space Station.

While the paying customers represent a new era of space tourism, they will also perform research as the space station whizzes over the Earth.

Connor will work with the Mayo Clinic and Cleveland Clinic on research projects, Axiom says, while Pathy will collaborate with the Canadian Space Agency and the Montreal Children’s Hospital. Stibbe plans to do experiments for Israeli researchers, working with the Ramon Foundation and Israel’s space agency.

“We sought to put together a crew for this historic mission that had demonstrated a lifelong commitment to improving the lives of the people on Earth, and I’m glad to say we’ve done that with this group,” Axiom Space President and CEO Michael Suffredini said as the company announced the crew.

Similar missions are planned for the future, Suffredini said. Axiom hopes to arrange up to two trips per year — and the company also wants to build its own privately funded space station. Under that plan, its modules would be attached to the space station as soon as 2024. And when the space station is retired, the Axiom modules would break off to continue in orbit on their own.

NASA announced its plans to open the International Space Station to commercial activities in June 2019, saying it wants businesses to use innovation and ingenuity to speed up development of “a thriving commercial economy in low-Earth orbit.”

The space agency has a plan to recoup the steep costs of a private citizen visiting the space station. Its pricing policy lists expenses such as a daily fee of $11,250 per person for “regenerative life support and toilet” and $22,500 per person for crew supplies such as food and air. The price sheet also includes a data plan, priced at $50 per gigabyte.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

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New app makes figuring out CBRM solid waste collection schedule easier – CBC.ca

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Residents of Cape Breton Regional Municipality will now have an easy way to find out what day their solid waste collection falls on.

A new app has been developed that allows residents to enter their address and find the specific day and time their garbage or recycling should be sitting at the end of their driveway.

The CBRM solid waste department had been working for months with an app developer who has made similar apps throughout North America.

Francis Campbell, the solid waste manager for CBRM, said one of the best parts of the app is the database that allows residents to search for what to do with specific waste materials.

“The search tool will educate residents in how to recycle or properly dispose of materials, and it’ll provide the curbside drop-off locations,” said Campbell.

The app sets up reminders through the calendar on a person’s phone so they will be reminded the night before to put out their garbage, recycling or green bin.

It also will be able to quickly let residents know if there is a cancellation or delay on a collection day, as well as post holiday cancellations.

CBRM deputy mayor Earlene MacMullin downloaded the app and said it was ‘fantastic.’ (CBRM)

Earlene MacMullin, the deputy mayor of CBRM, said she downloaded the app while getting the presentation on it and already found it useful.

“This is already fantastic and it seems very simplistic. I know deep down it isn’t, but in my first three minutes of using it, I encourage residents to check this out,” said MacMullin.

There will also be a web-based version along with online information regarding waste collection on the CBRM website. This will be coming when the app is fully launched in a few weeks time.

Coun. Cyril MacDonald said he is glad that people who do not have access to a smartphone can still have access to the information. 

“We’re not removing a service. You’re still able to get your calendar printed off, so I think this is great,” said MacDonald.

People who may not have access to a computer or a smartphone will still have the option to call the CBRM solid waste hotline to find out the information they need.

Mayor Amanda McDougall said she is happy she has an easy way to never forget what waste is being collected each week.

The app is now available for download through smartphone app stores.

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Limited COVID-19 data until Friday as Middlesex-London Health Unit moves to new database – Globalnews.ca

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The Middlesex-London Health Unit (MLHU) says it will only be able to provide limited COVID-19 information for the region over the next few days as it implements a new database for its website.

After using an internal case and contact management tool to collect local COVID-19 data, MLHU will now switch to Salesforce, a database system that’s already being used by the Ontario government.

Migrating to the new database means the health unit will be able to provide only limited information about case numbers, recoveries and deaths during daily updates for Wednesday and Thursday on MLHU’s COVID-19 dashboard.

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Regular updating of the dashboard is set to resume on Friday, but MLHU notes some data fields may be missing in subsequent updates as staff adjust to the new database.

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The health unit adds that it intends to have any potential missing information filled in once the new database is fully implemented.

Along with aligning the regional health unit with the province’s database, Salesforce will also allow the health unit to provide virtual notifications to those diagnosed with COVID-19.

The notifications will be sent via text message and will notify recipients of their test results, provide them information about self-isolating and prompt them to provide information about their symptoms and close contacts.

© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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