blind mole rat blind mole rat Kind of like an airplane pillow with a nose. (Photo: Edvard Mizsei / Shutterstock)

Mole rats are uncovering your ancient history

The fuzzy critters are now being used by some archaeologists on digs.

Ancient cultures are both fascinating and important. As Bob Marley once said, "If you know your history, then you would know where you coming from." But finding old stuff is HARD. Archaeological digs sound glamorous until you get to day seven of shoveling and you realize you're basically an underpaid gravedigger.

That's why a couple of archaeologists from Israel's Bar-Ilan University came up with an obvious solution: unleash an army of mole rats to do the dirty work.

Here's the deal: Mole rats (which happen to look like fuzzy airplane pillows with noses) tunnel into the ground, creating piles of dirt in the process. Archaeologists examine these piles to figure out if something interesting might be buried nearby. Mole rats are essentially becoming the new archaeologists. Or archaeology grad students, at least.

The (human) archaeologists came up with this literally groundbreaking idea pretty much how you'd expect: they happened to notice a pile of dirt that some mole rats dug up. They found pieces of pottery in the dirt — and this was in an area they didn't realize used to be inhabited by ancient peoples.

“The bottom line was quite clear,” said Avraham Faust, one of the professors pioneering this method, in a Times of Israel interview. “The mole rats brought up material from below, and hence, systematically examining molehills can be a good indication for human activity.”

At first, the scientists figured it was such an obvious idea that someone else must have already come up with it.

“We did not dare say that we are the first," said Faust.

So when they first wrote about the idea, they were careful to call it a "proposal" rather than a new method. But a few years later, they still hadn't found any other scientific papers about it. So they get all the props.

“I daresay we are the first,” continued Faust.

Although really, I think the mole rats should get the credit. And maybe a paycheck and 401k?


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Related Topics: Animals, Archaeology