Neanderthals used feathers as 'personal ornaments'

By Paul Rincon

Science editor, BBC News website

17 September 2012 Last updated at 22:21


Our evolutionary cousins the Neanderthals were harvesting feathers from birds in order to use them as personal ornaments, a study suggests.


The authors say the result provides yet more evidence that Neanderthal thinking ability was similar to our own.


The analysis even suggests they had a preference for dark feathers, which they selected from birds of prey and corvids - such as ravens and rooks.


Details of the research appear in Plos One journal. (Public Library of Science)


Our views of Neanderthals have come a long way since this representation was painted in 1909

Numerous tribal peoples from history have also adorned themselves with feathers, and the authors stress that they are not suggesting we learned the practice from Neanderthals.


Feather ornamentation could in fact go back even further, to a common ancestor of modern humans and Neanderthals.


Clive Finlayson and Kimberly Brown from the Gibraltar Museum, along with colleagues from Spain, Canada and Belgium, examined a database of 1,699 ancient sites across Eurasia, comparing data on birds at locations used by humans with those that were not.


They found a clear association between raptor and corvid remains and sites that had been occupied by humans.


They then looked more closely at bird bones found at Neanderthal sites in Gibraltar, including Gorham's and Vanguard cave, near the base of the rock: "The Neanderthals had cut through and marked the bones. But what were they cutting? We realised a lot of it was wing bones, particularly those holding large primary feathers," Prof Finlayson told BBC News.


Co-author Jordi Rosell, from Rovira i Virgili University in Tarragona, Spain, said: "We saw the cut-marks on bird bones at one cave, and then started seeing them in others. I think it's a common aspect to the caves in this rock."


Juan Jose Negro, director of the Donana Biological Station in Seville, Spain, who is another co-author, said: "The wings make up less than 20% of the weight of the body of those birds," adding, "there is no meat in the wings - they were not consuming these animals.


"The only explanation left is the use of those long feathers."


Not only this, but the ancient humans appeared to have a preference for birds with dark or black plumage. Species represented at the sites include ravens, crows, rooks, magpies, jackdaws, various types of eagle and vulture, red and black kites, kestrels and falcons.


Speaking to me at this year's Calpe conference in Gibraltar, Prof Finlayson explained: "What all this suggests to us is that Neanderthals had the cognitive abilities to think in symbolic terms. The feathers were almost certainly being used for ornamental purposes, and this is a quite unbelievable thing to find."


For much of the last century, Neanderthals were portrayed as knuckle-dragging brutes, whose extinction some 30,000 years ago was the natural outcome of competing against a more intelligent, creative and resourceful human species - Homo sapiens.


In recent years, the Neanderthals - who lived across Europe, the Middle East and Central Asia in Pleistocene times - have come to be rehabilitated amid mounting evidence that their abilities had been underestimated.


"I think this is the tip of the iceberg," said Prof Finlayson: "It is showing that Neanderthals simply expressed themselves in media other than cave walls. The last bastion of defence in favour of our superiority was cognition."


Neanderthals, he said, may have been "different", but "their processes of thinking were obviously very similar".


Dr Negro cautioned that there was no way to tell how the feathers were put to use. But he observed: "Current uses of feathers typically involve the same species. If you think of the Plains Indians in North America, they put those feathers in headdresses and they are signalling. They are signalling power and status. Perhaps the Neanderthals were using feathers in the same way."


Asked how the ancient humans might have caught the birds, Clive Finlayson speculated: "It's possible that these birds were nesting near the caves. Some may have fallen, but there's too much of it to be a random collection of dead animals.


"It's possible the Neanderthals were climbing up the cliffs and collecting birds from nests. But a large proportion of these birds are scavengers.


"An intelligent hominid, aware of this - and who may have used vultures as an indication of food sources - could easily have found ways of ambushing vultures and eagles when they came down to carcasses."


Other evidence of symbolic behaviour in Neanderthals includes the discovery of ochre - used to paint their bodies - at archaeological sites in Europe and the Levant. Earlier this year, another team published evidence of the possible symbolic use of eagle claws by Neanderthals, although they might also have been using the items as tools.





Topper Site Supports Theory of Extraterrestrial Impact 12,900 Years Ago

Published: Sep 20th, 2012 Archaeology | By Enrico de Lazaro


A new study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences has tried to answer the question: did a massive comet explode over Canada 12,900 years ago, wiping out both beast and man in North America and propelling the Earth back into an Ice age?


That’s a question that has been hotly debated by scientists since 2007, with the Topper archaeological site, located on the Savannah River in western Allendale County, South Carolina, right in the middle of the comet impact controversy. The new study provides further evidence that it may not be such a far-fetched notion.


In 2007, archaeologists led by Dr Richard Firestone of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory found spherules of metals and nano-sized diamonds in a layer of sediment dating 12,900 years ago at 10 of 12 archaeological sites. The mix of particles is thought to be the result of an extraterrestrial object, such as a comet or meteorite, exploding in the Earth’s atmosphere. Among the sites examined was the Topper, one of the most pristine sites in the United States for research on Clovis, one of the earliest ancient peoples.


“This independent study is yet another example of how the Topper site with its various interdisciplinary studies has connected ancient human archaeology with significant studies of the Pleistocene,” said Dr Albert Goodyear, an archaeologist with University of South Carolina and co-author on the new study. “It’s both exciting and gratifying.”


Younger-Dryas is what scientists refer to as the period of extreme cooling that began around 12,900 years ago and lasted 1,300 years. While that brief Ice age has been well-documented – occurring during a period of progressive solar warming after the last Ice age – the reasons for it have long remained unclear.


Dr Firestone’s team presented a provocative theory: that a major impact event – perhaps a comet – was the catalyst. His copious sampling and detailed analysis of sediments at a layer in the earth dated to 12,900 years ago, also called the Younger-Dryas Boundary (YDB), provided evidence of micro-particles, such as iron, silica, iridium and nano-diamonds. The particles are believed to be consistent with a massive impact that could have killed off the Clovis people and the large North American animals of the day. Thirty-six species, including the mastodon, mammoth and saber-toothed tiger, went extinct.


Dr Malcolm LeCompte, a research associate professor at Elizabeth City State University and lead author of the new study, began independent study in 2008 using and further refining Dr Firestone’s sampling and sorting methods at two sites common to the three studies: Blackwater Draw in New Mexico and Topper. He also took samples at Paw Paw Cove in Maryland.


At each site he found the same microscopic spherules, which are the diameter of a human hair and distinct in appearance. He describes their look as tiny black ball bearings with a marred surface pattern that resulted from being crystalized in a molten state and then rapidly cooled. The investigation also confirmed that the spherules were not of cosmic origin but were formed from earth materials due to an extreme impact.


“What we had at Topper and nowhere else were pieces of manufacturing debris from stone tool making by the Clovis people. Topper was an active and ancient quarry at the time,” Dr LeCompte said. “Al Goodyear was instrumental in our approach to getting samples at Topper.”


Dr Goodyear showed Dr LeCompte where the Clovis level was in order to accurately guide his sampling of sediments for the Younger Dryas Boundary layer. He advised him to sample around Clovis artifacts and then to carefully lift them to test the sediment directly underneath.


“If debris was raining down from the atmosphere, the artifacts should have acted as a shield preventing spherules from accumulating in the layer underneath. It turns out it really worked!” Dr Goodyear said. “There were up to 30 times more spherules at and just above the Clovis surface than beneath the artifacts.”


Dr LeCompte said the finding is “critical and what makes the paper and study so exciting. The other sites didn’t have artifacts because they weren’t tool-making quarries like Topper.”


“While the comet hypothesis and its possible impact on Clovis people isn’t resolved,” Dr Goodyear said. “This independent study lends greater credibility to the claim that a major impact event happened at the Younger Dryas Boundary 12,900 years ago.”


“The so-called extra-terrestrial impact hypothesis adds to the mystery of what happened at the YDB with its sudden and unexplained reversion to an ice age climate, the rapid and seemingly simultaneous loss of many Pleistocene animals, such as mammoths and mastodons, as well as the demise of what archaeologists call the Clovis culture,” Dr Goodyear said. “There’s always more to learn about the past, and Topper continues to function as a portal to these fascinating mysteries.”


Bibliographic information: Malcolm A. LeCompte et al. Independent evaluation of conflicting microspherule results from different investigations of the Younger Dryas impact hypothesis. PNAS, published online before print September 17, 2012; doi: 10.1073/pnas.1208603109



Humans were already recycling 13,000 years ago

20 September 2012 Plataforma SINC


A study at the Universitat Rovira i Virgili and the Catalan Institute of Human Paleoecology and Social Evolution (IPHES) reveals that humans from the Upper Palaeolithic Age recycled their stone artefacts to be put to other uses. The study is based on burnt artefacts found in the Molí del Salt site in Tarragona, Spain.


The recycling of stone tools during Prehistoric times has hardly been dealt with due to the difficulties in verifying such practices in archaeological records. Nonetheless, it is possible to find some evidence, as demonstrated in a study published in the ‘Journal of Archaeological Science’.


“In order to identify the recycling, it is necessary to differentiate the two stages of the manipulation sequence of an object: the moment before it is altered and the moment after. The two are separated by an interval in which the artefact has undergone some form of alteration. This is the first time a systematic study of this type has been performed,” as explained to SINC by Manuel Vaquero, researcher at the Universitat Rovira i Virgili.


The archaeologists found a high percentage of burnt remains in the Molí del Salt site (Tarragona), which date back to the end of the Upper Palaeolithic Age some 13,000 years ago. The expert ensures that “we chose these burnt artefacts because they can tell us in a very simple way whether they have been modified after being exposed to fire.”


The results indicate that the recycling of tools was normal during the Upper Palaeolithic Age. However, this practice is not documented in the same way as other types of artefacts. The use of recycled tools was more common for domestic activities and seems to be associated with immediate needs.


Recycling domestic tools


Recycling is linked to expedited behaviour, which means simply shaped and quickly available tools as and when the need arises. Tools used for hunting, like projectile points for instance, were almost never made from recycled artefacts. In contrast, double artefacts (those that combine two tools within the same item) were recycled more often.


“This indicates that a large part of these tools were not conceived from the outset as double artefacts but a single tool was made first and a second was added later when the artefact was recycled,” outlines the researcher. The history of the artefacts and the sequence of changes that they have undergone over time are fundamental in understanding their final morphology.


According to Vaquero, “in terms of the objects, this is mostly important from a cultural value point of view, especially in periods like the Upper Palaeolithic Age, in which it is thought that the sharper the object the sharper the mind.”


Sustainable practices with natural resources


Recycling could have been determinant in hunter-gatherer populations during the Palaeolithic Age if we consider the behaviour of current indigenous populations nowadays.


“It bears economic importance too, since it would have increased the availability of lithic resources, especially during times of scarcity. In addition, it is a relevant factor for interpreting sites because they become not just places to live but also places of resource provision,” states the researcher.


Reusing resources meant that these humans did not have to move around to find raw materials to make their tools, a task that could have taken them far away from camp. “They would simply take an artefact abandoned by those groups who previously inhabited the site.”


Vaquero and the team believe that this practice needs to be borne in mind when analysing the site. “Those populating these areas could have moved objects from where they were originally located. They even could have dug up or removed sediments in search of tools,” highlights the researcher.



Ancient tooth may provide evidence of early human dentistry

Public release date: 19-Sep-2012

Contact: Jyoti Madhusoodanan


415-568-4545 x187

Public Library of Science


Researchers may have uncovered new evidence of ancient dentistry in the form of a 6,500-year-old human jaw bone with a tooth showing traces of beeswax filling, as reported Sep. 19 in the open access journal PLOS ONE.


The researchers, led by Federico Bernardini and Claudio Tuniz of the Abdus Salam International Centre for Theoretical Physics in Italy in cooperation with Sincrotrone Trieste and other institutions, write that the beeswax was applied around the time of the individual's death, but cannot confirm whether it was shortly before or after. If it was before death, however, they write that it was likely intended to reduce pain and sensitivity from a vertical crack in the enamel and dentin layers of the tooth.


According to Tuniz, the severe wear of the tooth "is probably also due to its use in non-alimentary activities, possibly such as weaving, generally performed by Neolithic females."


Evidence of prehistoric dentistry is sparse, so this new specimen, found in Slovenia near Trieste, may help provide insight into early dental practices.


"This finding is perhaps the most ancient evidence of pre-historic dentistry in Europe and the earliest known direct example of therapeutic-palliative dental filling so far", says Bernardini.


Financial Disclosure: This work is part of the ICTP/Elettra EXACT Project (Elemental X-ray Analysis and computed Tomography) funded by Friuli Venezia Giulia (Italy). The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.


Competing Interest Statement: The authors have declared that no competing interests exist.


Citation: Bernardini F, Tuniz C, Coppa A, Mancini L, Dreossi D, et al. (2012) Beeswax as Dental Filling on a Neolithic Human Tooth. PLoS ONE 7(9): e44904. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0044904




Etruscan pyramidal chambers discovered in Italy

Posted by Past Horizons on Wednesday, September 19, 2012 · 


Initial investigations have begun on a series of pyramidal chambers carved from the tufa rock underneath the city of Orvieto, Italy.


Dr. David B. George of the Department of Classics at Saint Anselm and Dr. Claudio Bizzarri of the Parco Archeogico Ambientale dell Orvietano (PAAO) are the co-directors leading the excavation with students from Saint Anselm College.


The interior of the subterranean space had been filled almost to the top with the upper section used as a modern wine cellar.  However one feature caught the eye; a series of ancient stairs carved into the wall of a constructional type consistent with an Etruscan date.


The Etruscan’s controlled Orvieto from circa 1000 BCE until the Roman conquest of the city in 264 BCE.  Widely known for their art, agriculture, fine metalworking and commerce, they started to decline during the fifth century BCE as the Romans grew in power and by 300-100 BCE they had been absorbed into the Roman state.


Their puzzling, non-Indo-European language was virtually extinguished as they left almost no literature to document their society. The last person known to have been able to read Etruscan was the Roman emperor Claudius. Almost all we know about this highly influential culture comes from their richly decorated tombs that help to reconstruct their history.


The team initially noticed how the sides of the rock hewn chamber where the wine cellar is now located, tapered up in a pyramidal fashion. Even more intriguing, were a series of tunnels, again of Etruscan construction, that ran underneath the wine cellar hinting at the possibility of deeper undiscovered structures below. The owner of the cellar, Antonio Pagliaccia, was intrigued by the mystery and actively encouraged its exploration.


Working with the local inspector for the Soprintendenza per I Beni Archeologici dell Umbria, Dr. Paolo Bruschetti obtained a permit to explore the feature through the Fondazione per il Museo C. Faina. Excavations commenced on May 21, 2012, by first digging through a 20th century floor and midden complete with old tennis shoes, broken plates and other early 20th and late 19th century ephemera. After moving a metre of soil and debris, the diggers reached a medieval floor surface.


However, immediately beneath this floor was a layer of fill that, to the surprise of everyone, contained cultural material and artefacts, such as Attic red figured pottery from the middle of the 5th Century BCE and 6th – 5th century BCE Etruscan pottery with inscriptions and even objects that dated to 1000 BCE.


This fill layer seems to have been brought from various tombs as part of a clearing operation and was deposited into the pyramidal cavity through the centre of its apex now capped with a medieval arch. The layer is striking for its lack of Etruscan black gloss ceramics indicating that the site was sealed before the Hellenistic period in the middle of the fifth century BCE.


It seems likely the space was stumbled upon during the Middle Ages and used as a cellar. As excavations continued below this layer of fill, the excavators came upon 1.5 metres of sterile grey material intentionally deposited from a hole in the top of the structure now truncated by medieval construction.


Beneath this however, was another layer and a set of stone carved stairs – which gave the first hints of the structure’s origins – continuing down the wall and turning at one corner, below which it appeared as though a structure had been built into the wall, perhaps to continue the decent on wooden stairs. The material from this context all dates tightly to the middle of the fifth century BCE with nothing later. At this level also was found a tunnel running to another pyramidal structure; this tunnel dates from before the 5th BCE.


So far the excavators have removed 3 metres of infill and the pyramidal structure continues on down. It is now a cavernous space rising about 10 metres from the current level of excavation to the present cellar ceiling.


The lead archaeologists are still perplexed as to the function of the structure though it is clearly not a cistern. Dr. Bizzarri notes that there is nothing like these structures on record anywhere in Italy or the Etruscan world.


Dr. George, notes that it could be part of a sanctuary, and calls attention to the pyramid structures that were described in the literary sources as being part of Lars Porsena’s tomb [1]. Lars Porsena was an Etruscan king who ruled Chiusi and Orvieto at the end of the 6th century.


Dr. Bizzarri is however cautious that even this parallel is not exactly what is beginning to appear here, but it does open up intriguing possibilities. Both agree that the answer waits at the base level which could be 4, 5 or more metres below the layer they have now reached.


The subterranean  pyramidal hypogeums in Orvieto could offer a unique insight into this civilization and will enhance the work the team have been carrying out for the past 6 years at sites in the area.


One thing is certain, the next season will be exciting.


 [1]. According to most accounts, Lars Porsena was buried in an elaborate tomb in (or under) the city he ruled. Porsena’s tomb is described as having a 15 m high rectangular base with sides 90 m long. It was adorned by pyramids and massive bells. (Pliny the elder, Natural History, XXXVI, 19, 91ff.)

Etruscan News Online, the Newsletter of the American Section of the Institute for Etruscan and Italic Studies

Mysterious Etruscans, community dedicated to the preservation of Etruscan culture

Etruscan Studies, a Journal of the Etruscan Foundation from University of Massachusetts Amherst



Enormous Roman mosaic found under farmer's field

Discovery in Turkey from 3rd or 4th century shows how far-reaching empire was at its peak

University of Nebraska, Lincoln

By Stephanie Pappas

9/17/2012 4:51:18 PM ET


A giant poolside mosaic featuring intricate geometric patterns has been unearthed in southern Turkey, revealing the far-reaching influence of the Roman Empire at its peak.

The mosaic, which once decorated the floor of a bath complex, abuts a 25-foot-long (7-meter long) pool, which would have been open to the air, said Michael Hoff, a University of Nebraska, Lincoln art historian and director of the mosaic excavation. The find likely dates to the third or fourth century, Hoff said. The mosaic itself is an astonishing 1,600 square feet (149 square meters) — the size of a modest family home. 

"To be honest, I was completely bowled over that the mosaic is that big," Hoff told LiveScience.


The first hint that something stunning lay underground in southern Turkey came in 2002, when Purdue University classics professor Nick Rauh walked through a freshly plowed farmer's field near the ancient city of Antiochia ad Cragum. The plow had churned up bits of mosaic tile, Hoff said. Rauh consulted other archaeologists, including experts at the local museum in Alanya, Turkey. The museum did not have funds to excavate more than a sliver of the mosaic, so archaeologists left the site alone.

Last year, with a new archaeological permit for the site in hand, museum archaeologists invited Hoff and his team to complete the dig.


So far, the researchers have revealed about 40 percent of the mosaic. The floor is in "pristine" condition, Hoff said in a university video about the dig. It would have fronted an open-air marble swimming pool flanked by porticos.

The mosaic itself is composed of large squares, each sporting a unique geometric design on a white background, from starburst patterns to intertwined loops. It's the largest Roman mosaic ever found in southern Turkey, which was thought to be rather peripheral to the Roman Empire, according to Hoff. The existence of the mosaic suggests that Antiochia ad Cragum was far more influenced by the Romans than believed, Hoff said.


The city of Antiochia ad Cragum, founded in the first century, has a number of Roman features, including bathhouses and markets.

Hoff's team has also been excavating a third-century Roman temple in the city and a street lined with colonnades and shops.   

The team will return with students and volunteers to complete the mosaic excavations in June. Ultimately, Hoff said, the plan is to construct a wooden shelter over the entire mosaic and open the site to public visits.


© 2012 LiveScience.com. All rights reserved.



The English inspired Vikings to build cities

The first cities and churches in medieval Denmark were probably inspired by the English, sources show. A historian sheds light on how the English influenced the Vikings, culturally as well as politically.

September 16, 2012 - 06:30

By: Anne Ringgaard


When Danish Vikings conquered England, they left an imprint on the language and place names on the other side of the North Sea. What’s perhaps less known is that the English also left a significant mark on the Christian religion and the cities that were emerging in medieval Denmark.


When Danish Vikings sailed across the North Sea and conquered England, they left their mark on the English language and place names. That’s common knowledge, at least to historians.


What’s perhaps less known is that the influence cut both ways. Although England was under Danish rule in the Viking Age, the English were culturally and politically more sophisticated than their neighbours to the east.


Historian Marie Bønløkke Spejlborg was one of the more than 300 Norse mythology researchers who attended the 15th International Saga Conference held recently in Aarhus, Denmark.


She is currently writing her PhD thesis about how the English some 1,000 years ago left a significant imprint on Danish society. It is, for instance, likely that it was the English who inspired Danes to organise themselves into cities, according to her historical sources.


“I’m trying to figure out how the Danes formed connections with the English during the Viking Age as they travelled back and forth,” she says.


 “The English already had something that resembled a state with a functioning administration system. They had organised cities, whereas Denmark only had marketplaces.”


It’s therefore likely that the English inspired Danes to organise themselves into their first cities such as Viborg and Ringsted, she says.


“Back then the Vikings sailed back and forth between Denmark and England, and the Danes must have brought back some ideas from their travels,” says Spejlborg.


“There were for example a great number of people who, after having stayed in England perhaps for as long as ten years, returned to Denmark when Cnut the Great in 1018 disbanded his army. It would be strange if they didn’t bring something back home with them.”


She has spent the past 18 months trying to find out if it was the Danish Vikings who influenced the English or if the influence went both ways.


This has turned out to be a bit of an arduous task.


Thanks to archaeological finds, we know a great deal about what the Vikings left in England, and then there are place names such as the English town of Kirkby, whose name is rooted in Old Norse.


The English already had something that resembled a state with a functioning administration system. They had organised cities, whereas Denmark only had marketplaces.

Marie Bønløkke Spejlborg


“But there hasn’t been much research into how the exchange between the two countries affected Denmark,” says the researcher. “This could perhaps be put down to the relative scarcity of written and archaeological sources.”


She has used written sources, chronicles and sagas to look for clues of an English influence on medieval Danish culture, society and religion.


This has been a lengthy process, since most of the relevant sources are written in either Old English or Latin.


“Then you need to sit down with a dictionary and take one sentence at a time. Fortunately, I’ve become quite good at skimming through the sources, so I can tell with relative ease what’s relevant and what’s not.”


Historians have long known that some of the oldest Danish churches were built in the English style. And some of the first Danish bishops were actually English, she explains.


"In the sources I can see that King Sweyn Forkbeard appointed bishops from England to Denmark. They must have had an influence on how the church was organised.”


The English were Christianised about 300 years before the Danes started to get rid of Norse mythology, and they had churches long before Harald Bluetooth was baptised around the year 960 and subsequently turned Denmark into a Christian country.


This is one of the factors, Spejlborg argues, that make it likely that the Danes drew inspiration from the English when they built their first churches. She mentions St Jørgensbjerg Church in the city of Roskilde (pictured above) as a clear example of the English influence.


“Some even believe it was constructed by English builders,” she adds.


The English also influenced Danish language

It wasn’t just the architecture and the organisation of churches that were inspired by the English. It’s also obvious that some Danish words have their origin in Old English, says the researcher.


The Danish word ‘kristendom’, for example, stems from the Old English ‘cristendom’.


The old Danish word ‘ærkibiskup’ (archbishop) comes from the Old Engish ‘arcebisceop’, and even though the word ‘kors’ (‘cross’) is derived from Latin, it’s likely that the word came to Denmark from England.




Analysis by Rossella Lorenzi

Fri Sep 14, 2012 03:33 PM ET


The wreck of a huge German aircraft has been found off the coast of Sardinia nearly 70 years after it was shot down by a British fighter in the Second World War, a team of Italian researchers have announced.


Employed between 1942 and 1944, the plane, known as Messerschmitt 323 "Giant," was the largest land-based transport aircraft used in World War II.


With a 181-foot wingspan and six engines, this giant of the skies -- it was 33 feet tall and 92 feet long -- could carry a load of up to 12 tons, or 120 fully-equipped men into battle. The cargo was loaded through double doors that formed the curved nose of the plane.


The German airforce produced about 200 models of this massive plane. But the Me-323 was slow and difficult to manouver. Many "Giants" were intercepted by Allied fighters and shot down.


"Until now, no Me-323 had survived from the war, which makes this finding of great historical importance," said Cristina Freghieri, a diver and amateur historian who discovered the wreck at a depth of 200 feet off the coast of the island of Sardinia.


The Me-323 was shot down on July 26, 1943 by a Beaufighter fighter. It was on its way to the Tuscan city of Pistoia from its German base in Sardinia.


"The plane managed to moor before plunging into waters off the Maddalena islands. Some soldiers escaped on a raft, but most of the troop sank with the aircraft," Freghieri wrote on her website.


After spending a year searching military archives and flight path records, Freghieri identified the wreck with a wire-guided camera and then explored it with a small team of researchers.


"It was a pure emotional charge to suddenly see the airplane in the veiled blue of the sea. First we saw a piece of a sheet of metal, then another until the plane appeared, in an explosion of images, in all its beauty. My heart skipped a beat," Freghieri told the Italian news agency ANSA.


It is the second important discovery of a WW II wreck off Sardinia in just three months.


InJune, Italian researchers found the the wreckage of the Corazzata Roma, the flagship of the Italian navy. The massive battleship was sunk by the Germans in Sept 1943.